The EU is gearing up to launch its own satellite internet system to keep up with the likes of Amazon and Elon Musk owned SpaceX, with hopes to remove the European reliance on Chinese-built infrastructure.
The initiative to provide encrypted broadband coverage was unveiled this week after being amended following the European Commission’s Regulatory scrutiny; the watchdog thought that the initial plans were not cost effective.
The Secured Communications initiative has been put forward by Thierry Breton, the internal market commissioner, who wants the EU to build a third satellite system in lower earth orbit (LEO) for secure communications and access to the internet, as well as a back-up for cyber attacks, as reported by the Financial Times.
The initiative adds to Galileo, a global navigation system, and Copernicus, which is used for earth observation.
Kester Mann, Director, Consumer and Connectivity at CCS Insight, told City A.M. about the huge opportunity of satellites for the remotest parts of the world and connectivity.
However, she added: “By far the biggest barrier to the success of satellite broadband is cost. This includes not just the huge upfront investment to launch satellites into orbit, but also their heavy maintenance and replacement costs. For this reason, only a small number of players will be able to successfully compete.”
In many ways, Elon Musk’s Starlink service has been an early pioneer. Nonetheless, the tech mogul has estimated that his company’s total investment could eventually hit $30 billion.
“Even for a backer with pockets as deep as his, this is a staggering amount that surely raises questions about the long-term viability of the project”, Mann suggested.
Discussing European plans, Mann told City A.M.: “The plans for a European satellite project coincide with continued concern around the region’s standing in technology development, with the US and leading Asian markets on the front foot in areas such as 5G, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.”
Last month, Breton said that the Commission was likely to exclude non-EU countries from the programme, allowing for government and military use.
“It will reduce European dependency on non-European commercial initiatives under development,” Breton said about the plan in late January.
“Being a strategic constellation, we will make sure that the right governance and eligibility conditions are put in place to avoid any dependencies on third countries.”