RNLI and BT announce new partnership to help save lives

Lifeboats News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and BT have today – Wednesday 16 September – announced a new strategic supplier partnership that will support the lifesaving charity’s aim of defeating drowning.

BT, the largest telecoms provider in the UK, has committed to supporting the lifesaving charity for the next five years through supplying a new communications service and entering a partnership to develop innovative new technologies to help save lives.

BT will draw on its global reach and technical expertise to upgrade the charity's fixed, wireless and mobile networks, helping its staff, volunteers, and supporters connect faster and more effectively, using the latest communications technologies. The improvement in communications will provide an even better experience and be more cost efficient for the RNLI in this area, ensuring that every penny is spent where it should be in saving lives.

Combining years of innovation, expertise and reliability, the RNLI and BT share core brand values and experience – making this the perfect partnership for both organisations.

From volunteer lifeboat crew being alerted by maroons and using wooden boats in the past, to using digital pagers and state of the art lifeboats today, the RNLI has a history of developing new ideas to improve their capability to save lives at sea.

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, said: ‘We are delighted to announce this partnership with BT, a highly respected and trusted global brand. Through this new alliance, we’ll be able to reach even more people with our vital safety messages, with BT committed to helping us achieve our ambition of reducing drowning.

‘BT will provide core services, fresh ideas and innovations to help us save more lives. As a charity which operates around the whole of the UK and Ireland, BT will enable us to stay connected and take our communications to the next level.

‘In addition to sharing our drowning prevention advice and supporting our lifesaving efforts, BT has pledged to support our fundraising work, and offered an agreement that represents good value for us as a charity, for which we are extremely grateful.’

Gerry McQuade, CEO of BT Enterprise, said: “We're really pleased that the RNLI has chosen BT as its trusted technology and innovation partner. The RNLI is one of the best-known charities in the UK and does amazing work day-in, day-out, keeping people safe around our coastlines.

“As the UK's leading telecommunications company, we're excited to use our expertise and networks to help support the RNLI's mission to save more lives at sea. There have been huge developments in areas such as 5G and smart connected technology in recent years and we're looking forward to working with the RNLI on new solutions that will help them respond more quickly and work more efficiently.”

Chris Cathcart, Carrybridge (Northern Ireland) RNLI volunteer Helm and works for BT, said:

‘As an employer, BT has been very supportive of my volunteering for the RNLI, understanding that when my pager goes off, I need to stop everything and respond to the call for help. Their appreciation of the charity’s mission to save lives at sea and on inland waters, makes them in my view, the perfect partner to come onboard.

‘Working for BT, I know the experience and expertise they will be able to bring to the RNLI, taking their communications to the next level.’

The partnership will run for five years, focusing on improving the phone and internet network across RNLI sites and lifeboat stations, while providing alternative connectivity solutions in hard to reach areas.

BT is the largest internet provider in the UK, offering the greatest fixed broadband coverage in the country. It also owns EE, the UK’s biggest and fastest 4G mobile operator. Over the past decade, it has invested in getting 4G coverage to more places than any other network, including rural areas, and is also connecting the UK's new Emergency Services Network (ESN). In May 2019, it was the first network to launch 5G in the UK, with the service now available in more than 80 cities and large towns across the UK.

BT will also drive new innovations to help the RNLI save more lives and raise vital funds as well as sharing water safety information to help raise awareness.


RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Oliver Wrynne-Simpson, RNLI National Media Manager, on [email protected]. Alternatively, call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email [email protected].


RNLI lifeguard talking into their radio


RNLI crew member using navigation system

Stephen Scott

RNLI Helm Chris Cathcart

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.