Satellite sector bemoans EU’s “digital divide” structure
January 28, 2019
By Chris Forrester
A European Space Policy conference, organised by Business Bridge Europe, created something of a stir last week when the European Digital Economy Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said the commission was fully backing the deployment and use of high-throughput satellites for the remotest regions of Europe in order to fill the much criticised broadband digital divide.
However, satellite industry experts, speaking at the same January 22nd event, said there is absolutely no evidence of any such formal or financial effort.
Gabriel reportedly said that it was the EU’s goal of guaranteeing at least 30 Mb/s of internet connectivity to all citizens by 2020, and 100 Mb/s by 2025, and stated that satellites were needed to ensure rural and remote areas received the same benefits.
Eutelsat’s CEO Rodolphe Belmer, quoted by Space Intel Report as saying that the satellite industry as not seeking cash from the Commission but wanted a coherent regulatory position.
““Everybody has insisted that satellites are crucial for bridging the digital divide, and for connectivity at sea and in the air,” Belmer said, speaking at the Business Bridge event. “But the fact is that European policy — at the European, national and local levels — is totally focused on fibre development.”
The French government is seeking to apply the EU’s timetable on suppliers, and this would involve satellite bandwidth. But at the European level, Belmer said, “there is absolutely no room left for satellite connectivity. For instance, the latest European Electronics Communications Code, approved in December, requires fibre optics at least up to the distribution point, which would be mandatory. Where is the room for satellite in that regulation?”
Other criticism came from Evert Dudok, president of the EMEA Satellite Operators Association, ESOA, added that something was fundamentally wrong when such large minorities of a county’s population did not have reliable access to broadband, and told the Commissioner that even in Germany, where a significant investment had been made in fibre that there was “no way” Germany could get all its citizens connected via fibre or terrestrial mobile.