France forces Starlink closure
April 7, 2022
By Chris Forrester
France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, has revoked Elon Musk’s Starlink licence to operate in the country. The ruling is based on French frequency rights granted in February 2021 to SpaceX’s Starlink last year and issued to the broadband service by regulator Arcep.
Starlink will have to cease to operate in France. The Conseil d’Etat has argued about a procedural flaws in Arcep’s initial decision in Starlink’s favour, saying it had revoked the right to operate on two frequencies after two “activist groups” appealed Arcep’s decision.
The granting of the licences to Starlink “could impact the market of access to high-bandwith internet and affect the interests of end users,” the Conseil d’Etat said in its ruling.
Evidently, Arcep had failed to hold two public hearings – required by law – ahead of issuing the licences.
A note on the news from investment bank Exane/BNPP says that Europe is in the process of developing a new space policy. “We have argued that this new space policy will come to the benefit of commercial satellite operators possibly through direct capacity procurement. We see this French government decision to close down Starlink in France as further evidence of our thesis of greater government support to commercial space players.”
“Given Starlink’s focus on consumer broadband, we believe Eutelsat (=) is best placed to benefit from the French decision as it eases the competitive landscape in the key growth driver of the group.”
However, the Conseil d’Etat ruling is likely to provoke a response from Musk and SpaceX.