Space travel: Germany supports high-speed internet from space – economy

One of the favorite projects of EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton is the ‘Connectivity Initiative’. It is a satellite network whose main purpose is to provide Europe, Africa and the Arctic with sovereign, secure, high-speed Internet from space. In addition to governments, state agencies and the military, users should also include businesses and citizens through commercial providers. The constellation requires hundreds of satellites to orbit the Earth by 2027. Given the years of delays in the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system, which only has 30 satellites, this seems like an ambitious plan. So ambitious that Breton presented its first concepts in February – without waiting for the start-up studies to be delivered by the end of June. All he had at his disposal was a feasibility study by an industrial consortium. “From our point of view, we first need to see where the need really is,” said the federal government’s new space coordinator Anna Christmann (The Greens) at the time.

The government’s fears that Breton may push through its flagship project too quickly seem to be so great that, according to the information provided by the Polish Armed Forces, Berlin was actively involved in the implementation of the project. We are talking about a letter to the EU Commissioner Breton, in which the Federal Minister for the Economy, Robert Habeck (the Greens), and the Italian Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitalisation, Vittorio Colao, are required to clarify important issues before starting the project. In addition to the needs of the Member States and the system architecture, this would include the involvement of commercial partners, the role of the Esa space agency, the tendering model and financing.

The German-Italian working document available to the Armed Forces shows that both countries clearly support the Breton satellite project – albeit as part of an orderly process. Member States and ESA should be involved in this, also in order to avoid negative interactions and duplication with other programs. Such a constellation “could contribute to the implementation of the Space Strategy for Europe, the European Defense Action Plan and the European Union Global Strategy,” the authors write. It is also “crucial that European industry remains competitive”. Prerequisites, however, are the definition of precise objectives and commercial opportunities, the financial needs of private investors, and the involvement of start-ups and mid-sized companies. “Italy and Germany are therefore calling on the Council Presidency and the Commission to draw up an action plan to tackle these issues on the short and long-term agenda” – together with the Member States.

According to the authors, the constellation should, in addition to public users, “enable commercially operated infrastructure for broadband Internet services with low latency,” that is, with low signal latency. “It should be competitive to achieve sustainable and effective market shares” but not “undermine and distort” other private initiatives. Europe’s independence in satellite communications is “of the utmost importance” due to increasing competition from companies such as Starlink (Space-X) and Kuipers (Amazon), but also “growing security concerns” exacerbated by geopolitical events.

The project is likely to cost at least EUR 6 billion

Finally, the initiators are demanding that the system be economically viable in the long run. In Berlin, you hear that the federal government does not want to burden itself with publicly financed satellite infrastructure with fixed budgets of billions. For this reason, other space programs should not be cut. According to earlier information from the Commission, the project will be financed by EU countries, ESA, the Commission (EUR 2.4 billion) and private investors. In circles, there is talk of at least six billion euros.

There is no statement about German shareholding from the Habeck ministry. The core idea of ​​an EU initiative should be that “European citizens will get better, cheaper and safer broadband coverage,” it reads. “The economic potential of the New Space should be promoted and exploited.” “Public service contracts in particular can mobilize successful New Space solutions from SMEs and start-ups and venture capital.” The public side could support this as the main customer.

On Friday, this topic will also be discussed by the EU Competitiveness Council. Green MEP Niklas Nienaß, who negotiates the issue in the European Parliament’s Industry Committee, welcomes Breton’s initiative. However, the goals must be clearly defined: “It must offer real added value to citizens, with affordable Internet in structurally weak areas.” Moreover, it could build a new European space economy. “If Europe wants to help shape international space travel, we need more competition in Europe.”

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