France commits to EU broadband scheme
November 24, 2022
By Chris Forrester
France has agreed with other major European nations and is the prime supporter in cash terms for the EU’s request for extra funding for the proposed European Union’s medium Earth orbiting satellite broadband system.
France will pay “up to €300 million” for the broadband system although the commitment is somewhat dependent on which consortium wins the operation of the system.
A European ministerial meeting on November 23rd also agreed to fund the European Space Agency’s (ESA) request for more cash for the EU scheme as well as other planned projects. The amount committed to the broadband satellite scheme was €100 million ‘over-subscribed’ by member governments, with France leading the contributors followed by Spain and Italy. Germany has promised more cash next year.
The ministerial meeting decided that 6-12 initial satellites could now be built, launched and tested. The future plan is for 170 satellites to be launched.
The ESA budget will rise by 16.6 percent to a total of €16.932 billion for the next three years of spending and covers costs of many future scientific missions. This sum compares with an overall budget of €10.3 billion in 2016, and €14.5 billion in 2019. However, the ESA wanted €18.5 billion, for example.
Director general Josef Aschbacher praised the various nations for managing to come together despite the challenges from Covid and now Ukraine and the resultant energy crisis.
“This is a very significant increase, but you have to see this figure in context,” Aschbacher said, citing Europe’s energy crisis, high inflation, and economies still recovering from the pandemic. “Despite these circumstances, with inflation being so high, I have to say I’m very impressed by this figure.”
However, in reality while the overall budget has increased, if inflation is taken into account then ESA’s budget is about the same as the 2019 sum achieved and around 3 per cent below what an inflation liked increase would have achieved. Three nations (Czech rep., Hungary and Norway) reduced their contributions when compared to 2019.
The largest contributors to ESA’s overall budget were:
Germany: 20.8 per cent
France: 18.8 per cent
Italy: 18.2 per cent
UK: 11.2 per cent
Belgium: 5.6 per cent
Spain: 5.5 per cent
Switzerland: 3.7 per cent
Netherlands: 2.8 per cent