EU Commission launches plans for a €6bn satellite internet system

15 Feb 2022

Image: © Aleksandr/Stock.adobe.com

The new satellite system is part of the EU’s strategy to avoid dependence on non-EU space initiatives and end communication dead zones.

The EU Commission has announced plans for a €6bn secure satellite communication system to provide high-speed internet for the continent and maintain the EU’s independence in space.

In a statement today (15 February) the Commission said space-based connectivity is a strategic asset for the EU’s resilience. To maintain this, it has put forward the plan for a secure satellite system that will support the protection of critical infrastructure, surveillance, external actions, crisis management and applications.

Future Human

The new satellite system will also aim to provide reliable and fast internet across Europe, to remove communication dead zones and improve cohesion among the EU’s member states.

This is in line with the key elements of the EU’s space strategy that commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, outlined in 2021.

The new satellite system will also provide connectivity over geographical areas of strategic interest, such as Africa and the Arctic, as part of the EU’s Global Gateway strategy.

“Our new connectivity infrastructure will deliver high-speed internet access, serve as a back-up to our current internet infrastructure, increase our resilience and cybersecurity and provide connectivity to the whole of Europe and Africa,” Breton said.

“It will be a truly pan-European project allowing our many start-ups and Europe as a whole to be at the forefront of technological innovation.”

The satellite system will be funded by a €2.4bn EU contribution from 2022 until 2027, with the rest coming from other sources including EU member states, the European Space Agency and private sector investments.

If successful, this will be the EU’s third satellite system in orbit, with the others being the Galileo and Copernicus satellite and Earth observation systems. Last December, the EU successfully launched two more Galileo satellites into orbit, with more launches planned for the future to enhance the network.

In order to deal with the “exponential increase in the number of satellites” and private initiatives in space, the EU Commission has also proposed a Space Traffic Management (STM) system.

The main goals of this system are to promote the safe and sustainable use of space while preserving the EU’s strategic autonomy and industrial competitiveness.

High representative of the union for foreign affairs and security policy, Josep Borrell, said: “Space has become more crowded than ever, increasing the complexity and the risks related to space operations. To address this global challenge, we propose today an EU approach to Space Traffic Management.

“While STM is a civilian endeavour, European security and defence depend on a safe, secure and autonomous access to space,” Borrell added.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com