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Government backs satellites for rural connectivity


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has announced a £160 million scheme for the development of satellite communications, emphasising the potential to improve connectivity for remote and rural areas of the UK.

It said the provision of more low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites will also make the country more resilient with more reliable connectivity.

Named Connectivity in Low Earth Orbit (CLEO), the scheme will involve support for UK researchers and businesses in developing new satellite constellations, with improved hardware and AI to make the delivery of data faster. It will be aimed at supporting the launch of hundreds of satellites into space.

This will be complemented by a range of live 5G integration projects aimed at establishing networks in underserved and remote areas. This should increase the availability of high speed internet connections and address a major priority in improving telecommunications.

Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan MP said: “Tackling the digital divide is at the heart of empowering our citizens wherever they live, and by investing in the vital research and development that CLEO would facilitate, we can level up our country while growing the economy through high quality jobs.

“This proposed record investment is also potentially a huge opportunity to harness our reputation as a world leader in innovation and R&D investment, supporting leading UK businesses to deliver the next generation of satellites and positioning the UK as true space superpower.”

ARTES aspect

DSIT said the scheme will involve up to £100 million in grant funding, and it is exploring the possibility of adding £60 million from the European Space Agency’s UK backed Advanced Research and Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme, which supports industry in delivering the infrastructure for satellite communications.

It added that the launch of the scheme and funding commitment will be subject to standard business case and other approvals. Should it progress, support for companies will be subject to a competitive process and fulfilment of eligibility requirements.


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