EC ignoring existing LEO constellations
July 14, 2022
The European Commission (EC), along with the European Space Agency (ESA), continues to firmly back the establishment of an independent and European-backed low Earth orbiting (LEO) broadband constellation. However, there’s criticism that the proposed €6 billion scheme is unnecessary and that there are plenty of commercial schemes more than capable of filling consumer demand.
The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communication (BEREC) is studying the impact of a Europe-wide system and is inviting further comments from the public and stakeholders (closing date August 15) as to the need and potential upside benefits from a European-financed LEO project.
BEREC, itself backed by the European Union, suggests that the private sector could well have sufficient satellite capacity to meet demand and its draft report suggests that there’s no pressing need for government funding. Its draft analysis, with data and comments from 29 national regulators in Europe although leaning heavily on information from the German Federal Network Agency (BundesNetzAgentur) and data from the Fraunhofer Institute last year which suggested that Germany’s existing 23,000 satellite broadband users would rise to 125,000 users by 2025 but could be constrained by capacity from – the then – existing satellite suppliers.
But by adding in Elon Musk’s Starlink, as well as the proposed Kuiper project from Amazon, and OneWeb (where Eutelsat is a significant shareholder) as well as Viasat’s giant Viasat-3 system over Europe in addition to expansion from the likes of Eutelsat’s Konnect craft, then take-up would be improved and capacity – and competitiveness – inevitably increased. A currently unknown threat comes from China and its LEO-based ambitions.
Nevertheless, the ESA is pushing for the European broadband project. ESA says that Europe has “fallen behind” in rocket launchers [and] broadband internet constellations [Note, the plural “constellations”]. The ESA has at its 2025 Agenda its plan that “Europe needs to catch up in domains with a strong commercial growth potential”.
Eutelsat is seen as a supporter of the EC initiative, and was recently quoted as saying: “SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper [are] both American and it is a large challenge for us to determine what actors in Europe and in France that might, together, compete with this very American initiative. And I have no doubt that there are similar Russian or Chinese that will join them.”