BT and satellite operator OneWeb has signed a deal to explore ways to provide broadband internet to remote areas of the UK and to people at sea.

OneWeb, which is partly UK taxpayer-owned, has hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit. It is currently adding to its network, and said it should start to provide services later in the year.

OneWeb competes against providers such as Elon Musk’s Starlink, which was recently granted a license to operate. Starlink began a UK trial of its services in January after Ofcom granted it a license in November.

BT and OneWeb will look at how to improve the speed that people can access data in remote areas, and how to improve the signal people can get on their phone, including how to stop it cutting out so much.

The two also want to develop services for BT’s global customers. BT chief executive Philip Jansen said: “It is clear that greater partnership is needed, both with government and within the industry, to ensure connectivity can reach every last corner of the country.”

OneWeb was bought out of bankruptcy last year by the British government and Indian conglomerate Bharti Global, and in April received a major investment from Eutelsat.

The plan for OneWeb to work more closely with BT comes as the UK government runs the £5bn Project Gigabit which aims to improve UK rural broadband coverage.