EU to spend 6 billion euros on broadband satellite plan

EU to spend 6 billion euros on broadband satellite plan

The bloc’s ambition is to rival the satellite based Internet system of Elon Musk

The European Commission this week rolled out a 6 billion-euro satellite communications plan. The move is part of a push to cut the European Union’s dependence on foreign companies and protect key communications services. The bloc also wants to use satellites to cover “black spots” with poor Internet coverage currently.

Another major reason for the system is security. The proprietary network will be table to protect surveillance data against any outside interference.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has been pushing the project through the bloc for more than a year. He told French TV station BFM on Monday it’s essential that Europe has its own so-called “constellation” of satellites.

He said the EU’s space plans will help boost the cybersecurity and resilience of EU countries, while ensuring better broadband access across Europe and Africa. He also added that just 56 percent of households in Europe have access to high-speed broadband.

“This is of central importance in terms of our strategic and technical sovereignty,” Breton said Tuesday at a press conference.

The EU is entering a highly competitive global marketplace

The EU is entering a fierce global race to blanket the earth with rival low-earth orbit satellite coverage. These spacecraft are much closer to the planet than the traditional geostationary kind which beam TV and remote communications. This means they can connect users to faster broadband. The downside is that they don’t stay in orbit as long and require many more satellites to achieve the same geographic coverage.

The dominant player is Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp.. That company has launched about 2,000 spacecraft for its Starlink system. It aims to provide consumer broadband to remote regions, as well as defense and business applications, and has the advantage of using its own re-usable rockets. Rival billionaire Inc. founder Jeff Bezos is also planning a similar system called Project Kuiper.

The EU’s closest equivalent is a U.K. based a startup called OneWeb. The U.K. is now part of a consortium which includes the Indian conglomerate Bharti Global, SoftBank Group Corp. and French satellite operator Eutelsat SA. It has so far launched 648 satellites into orbit.