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Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) has partnered with Starlink, a satellite provider, to enhance mobile services in the United Kingdom's remote regions.

The British telecommunications company plans to utilize Starlink's network of over 5,000 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to bolster backhaul services, nationwide.

Exploring a Modern Network Infrastructure

Mobile infrastructure is built upon the foundation of efficient data transmission mechanisms, primarily relying on two key technologies: fiber optic cables and wireless point-to-point connections for backhaul. Fiber optic cables serve as the backbone of the network, facilitating high-speed data transfer over long distances with minimal signal loss. These cables are laid underground or suspended on utility poles, forming a vast network that connects cell towers to the core of the network.

On the other hand, wireless point-to-point connections provide a flexible and dynamic solution for transmitting data between cell towers and the network's core without the need for physical cables. These connections utilize microwave or millimeter-wave frequencies to establish direct links between adjacent towers, enabling rapid data exchange over shorter distances. Together, fiber optic cables and wireless point-to-point connections form the essential infrastructure that supports the seamless operation of mobile networks, ensuring reliable and high-performance connectivity for users across diverse geographic regions.

However, due to the remoteness and challenging geography of regions such as the Scottish Highlands, these traditional methods are impractical and costly to implement. Notably, VMO2 can establish reliable backhaul connections to remote masts using Starlink's network of LEO satellites without having to deploy costly terrestrial network infrastructures.

The company also noted that the technology has already been successfully tested in the Scottish Highlands. This project was completed in collaboration with Telefónica Global Solutions, an official Starlink reseller. “By constantly finding new ways to deliver for our customers, we are bringing reliable mobile coverage to rural communities faster and helping to close the UK’s digital divide,” said Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at VMO2, in a press release.

Accelerating Remote Deployment

VMO2 also stated that its new partnership with Starlink will help to accelerate the Shared Rural Network (SRN) rollout by allowing new cell sites to be deployed in remote areas.

The SRN initiative aims to extend 4G coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025. This GBP 1 billion scheme involves a partnership between the UK's major mobile operators (EE, Three, Vodafone, and VMO2), with funding coming from both the operators themselves (GBP 532 million) and the UK government (GBP 500 million).

Looking forward, VMO2 is considering additional applications for satellite connectivity beyond the SRN, such as providing coverage for emergency services and enhancing connectivity at events.