By Mathieu Rosemain
PARIS, March 9 (Reuters) – The Ukraine crisis highlights the need for rapid deployment of European Union-funded satellite broadband internet, European industry chief Thierry Breton said on Wednesday.
The EU had already drawn up plans for a €6 billion ($6.6 billion) satellite communications program just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. The plan aims to reduce the bloc’s dependence on foreign companies.
“Having access to backup (networks) is essential,” Breton told a news conference following a meeting with EU telecommunications ministers.
“We saw it with what happened in Ukraine… (They had to) bring in a private company immediately to provide complementary services,” he said, referring to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
On Saturday, Musk said SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service was activated in Ukraine and that SpaceX was sending more terminals to the country, responding to a tweet from a Ukrainian government official who asked Musk to provide him with Starlink stations.
“This, for us, is obviously something that is not acceptable. We really have to be sovereign over our infrastructure, including this.”
Breton said the goal was to start building a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, with launches planned from 2024. These would deliver high-speed internet to the continents of Europe and Africa, he said. declared.
Companies active in this area include SpaceX, Amazon’s Kuiper Systems and UK satellite company OneWeb. China also has its own constellation project.
The EU proposal also aims to help counter cyber and electromagnetic threats and improve the resilience of EU telecommunications infrastructure.
The project will be funded by a €2.4 billion contribution from the EU from 2022 to 2027, the EU budget, EU countries, the European Space Agency and private investment. ($1 = 0.9077 euros) (Report by Mathieu Rosemain. Editing by Jane Merriman)