Government explores plan to boost broadband with £160m LEO satellites fund

5G, Broadband, News

  • The government is working to establish a potential £160m scheme to fund next generation of satellite communications development and boost UK’s leadership in growing global satellite market
  • Satellites will be key to offering connectivity in remote and rural parts of UK, aiming to bridge the digital divide
  • Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites more resilient and harder to disable and have ensured reliable connectivity for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s illegal invasion

British innovators working to improve 5G and broadband coverage across the whole of the UK could be in line to secure up to £160 million from a scheme aiming to support the next generation of high-tech satellites, Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan announced today. 

LEO satellites represent the next generation of space technology, offering unparalleled resilience and resistance to disabling attempts. Their vital importance was demonstrated during Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, when they ensured continuous and reliable connectivity, even in the most challenging circumstances.

The Connectivity in Low Earth Orbit scheme (CLEO) will include supporting smarter satellites with better hardware, using AI to make data delivery faster and connecting satellites together for improved connection – all creating interconnected networks serving billions worldwide.

The development would mark the UK’s most significant ever investment in satellite communications, the government claims, creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs.

This package would be complemented by a range of live 5G integration projects such as the 5G testing facility at ESCAT in Harwell, Oxfordshire which aims to establish networks in underserved and remote areas.

Says Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan:

“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.”

To propel the UK’s capabilities and long-term ambitions in the space sector, the Government is exploring grant funding of up to £100 million. The government is also exploring whether to support this grant funding with an additional £60 million from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) UK-backed Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme, which supports UK industry in delivering commercial satellite communications infrastructure.

Adds Harshbir Sangha, Missions and Capabilities Delivery Director at the UK Space Agency:

“Today’s announcement is a vital step towards the delivery of a key priority of the UK Space Agency – to maximise the potential of low Earth orbit and become a global leader in next-generation satellite communications technologies by building our ability to service future high-volume constellations. ”

This announcement follows the reintroduction of the Government’s National Space Council, as part of the UK’s mission to become a true space superpower.

Chris Price
For latest tech stories go to