South Wales University students given lessons in world-wide communications – from deepest Herefordshire

University students from the University of South Wales will be given a rare insight into how BT helps the world’s businesses and communities to stay in touch during a visit to the company’s international communications hub in the heart of Herefordshire.

The group – who are all studying Mobile and Satellite Communications at the University of South Wales (USW) – come from as far afield as Greece, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Poland, as well as around the UK.

It’s the first visit of its kind to BT’s international communications centre by a university and could lead to closer ties between the two organisations.

The 218-acre site houses more than 60 satellite dishes and is dominated by three giant aerials, each measuring 32 metres in diameter and weighing 290 tonnes.

Since its opening in 1978, the earth station has played a key role in communicating and broadcasting key world events, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the funeral of Princess Diana.

Today, its roles include handling data services for major BT clients in many countries around the world, as well as the television content for outside broadcasts for BT Sport and other broadcasters.

During the trip the 18 students will learn about the range of satellite services that operate from Madley, and how the technology makes it possible for businesses to communicate with their staff and customers in different countries.

In addition they will see how the latest equipment is used to enhance communications in some of the most isolated communities of the globe.

They will also visit ‘Madley 1’, believed to be one of the largest working satellites in the world.

The session on Thursday, May 25 will also include a behind-the-scenes look at the work of BT’s Emergency Response Team, which is based at Madley. Members of this highly-skilled taskforce are despatched at short notice to help in serious situations such as floods and other disasters.

The student trip is the brainchild of Ifiok Otung, Professor of Satellite Communications at the USW, who came up with the idea after visiting Madley himself last year.

He said: “Madley is a fascinating site and it will be really especially interesting for our students to see the application of some of the technologies we deal with in research.

“I thought the site was very inconspicuous from the outside, but very imposing and exciting on the inside, with world-class facilities.”

Jon Price, a BT satcomms engineer, who is co-ordinating the visit, said: “We have a long tradition of supporting the development of young people through apprenticeships and other educational and training programmes. We hope this visit will inspire these university students not only in their current research but also in their future careers.

“Satellite communications is an amazing ‘out of this world’ technology, which has captured the imagination of people for decades.”