A consortium of companies, including Airbus Space, Arianespace, Eutelsat, Thales, Alenia Space and Orange, was appointed by the European Commission on Wednesday, December 23, to work on the launch of a European satellite communications network. The goal is to provide a high-speed Internet solution with global coverage, especially for critical applications.
This European space communications system aims to provide worldwide coverage, including rural and white areas. The idea is to provide a high-speed Internet solution via satellite for critical applications. Secure connectivity will be offered to citizens, businesses and institutions.
Initially, the consortium's mission is to "study the design, development and launch of an independent European space communications system".
To conduct this one-year feasibility study, with a funding budget of 7.1 million euros, nine companies were selected (Hispasat, OHB, SES and Telespazio) from among satellite operators and manufacturers, a telecom operator and a European launch service provider. This first phase will allow to better define user requirements but also to establish a preliminary architectural design, a service delivery concept and budget estimates.
Digital sovereignty in the background
The establishment of such an infrastructure should strengthen security in the transmission and storage of information and data and meet the needs of government agencies, financial and banking companies, scientific networks, critical infrastructures and data centers.
After satellite navigation with Galileo and Earth observation with Copernicus, the European Union wants to acquire a satellite constellation to ensure its sovereignty in telecommunications. A sovereignty issue that is regularly raised and for which Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, highlights the importance for the EU to have its own satellite constellation.
Europe must go further than Galileo and Copernicus to ensure its digital sovereignty. Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market.
Private companies such as Amazon and SpaceX have already started to deploy their own constellations, or even their own satellite broadband Internet offers.
Three satellite constellation projects stand out for their size and ambition: OneWeb, Starlink and Kuiper Systems developed respectively by billionaires Gregory Wyler (O3b), Elon Musk (Tesla and Space X) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon).
These satellite constellations will be launched soon. Once operational, they could count between 650 and 12,000 satellites per project, enough to make the 2,000 operational satellites currently in Earth orbit blush.
Each project offers enormous advantages. Starlink, through Elon Musk's company Space X, has its own launch rockets. The OneWeb project, taken over by an Anglo-Indian consortium, has already forged strategic partnerships with Airbus and has benefited from a $500 million investment. Finally, Kuiper Systems will be able to rely on Amazon's infrastructure and perhaps even on the rockets of Blue Origin, the company that Jeff Bezos has been developing for nearly 20 years.
Urgent need for the EU to play the strategic autonomy card
If the EU really wants to remain sovereign over its 500 million inhabitants, in terms of high-speed Internet for data and critical applications, it must be an active and proactive force in this field. We have the technological capabilities. All that remains is to orchestrate all the players and even surpass our competitors around the world.