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Investment bank floats potential BT-Starlink partnership

The pact could help BT deploy broadband Internet in rural areas where fixed-wireless or fiber-based services are difficult to deploy.

The pact could help BT deploy broadband Internet in rural areas where fixed-wireless or fiber-based services are difficult to deploy.

A man installs a Starlink satellite dish, which uses Low Earth orbit satellites to provide broadband Internet service to residents and businesses in supported areas. (Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons)
A man installs a Starlink satellite dish, which uses Low Earth orbit satellites to provide broadband Internet service to residents and businesses in supported areas. (Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons)

British telecommunications provider BT Group could help fill gaps in its rural broadband coverage by partnering with satellite Internet provider Starlink, an investment bank said in a note this week.

The suggestion came from Bank BNP Paribas (BBNP), which quoted satellite communication firm TS2 Space in affirming Starlink’s fleet of 5,000 global satellites could be tapped by BT to enhance its mobile signals and home broadband connections in parts of the United Kingdom where fixed wireless and land-based services are unavailable or difficult to deploy.

“The collaboration could see a merging of terrestrial mobile services with the space-based network, delivering robust communication solutions where traditional infrastructures fall short,” BNPP wrote in its note. “This initiative may also help BT in its mission to surpass the coverage targets set by the government in the struggle to bridge the country’s digital divide.”

The suggestion follows a partnership between T-Mobile and Starlink that aims to bring cell phone service to remote parts of the United States. Earlier this month, Starlink’s sister company SpaceX deployed a new set of Starlink satellites that are expected to provide direct-to-cell call capabilities to T-Mobile subscribers for the first time.

BT and Starlink do not have a similar agreement in place, and any partnership between the two would likely require the approval of British regulator Ofcom before anything can get off the ground. But BNPP believes a pact along similar lines as the partnership between Starlink and T-Mobile could be a cost-effective way to reach subscribers in areas where fiber-based service might be impossible to roll out due to terrain or other factors.

“From a BT point of view the offer would be of marginal importance as it would likely simply see BT act as a Starlink reseller with a thin margin,” BNPP wrote in the note. “However, it would allow BT to claim that it offers a truly national service even in deeply rural areas…from a revenue point of view this is a small part of the base — probably a couple percent of subscribers, we’d expect — and would be of little economic importance, but from a marketing and regulatory dialogue point of view, it could still be helpful.”

BNPP said Starlink service could also be attractive to residents and businesses in densely urban areas who are looking for alternatives to land-based and fixed-wireless providers.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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