Germany Military halts Starlink talks
February 6, 2024
By Chris Forrester
Germany’s Military (Bundeswehr) has ended talks over using Starlink despite reportedly successful test usage by the Cyber Innovation Hub der Bundeswehr. The Bundeswehr, in a statement, said that there has been a disagreement on certain “key issues”.
Other national governments are also refusing Starlink access.
Additionally there are reportedly fears that Starlink might present security risks while another report cites Elon Musk’s allegedly erratic behaviour. Another report talks of anxieties over serving soldiers using Starlink for their private communications.
It is also not known whether the decision is specifically related to Germany’s Ministry of Defence testing of the Sabbia 2.0 passive radar system which uses signals from the Starlink satellite network.
The Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (FHR), designers of the SABBIA 2.0 passive radar system demonstrator used Starlink because of the large deployment of satellites and means that objects can be illuminated from multiple directions, bringing to sight objects that might be obscured in practical situations where there is only one transmitter.
However, one other comment says that the decision might have more to do with the upcoming contracts for the EU-backed IRIS2 mega-constellation of broadband satellites which are targeted for military and governmental usage. The IRIS2 contract decision is due to be made before the end of March. The scheme is a €12 million contract to run for 12 years and with satellite operators SES, Eutelsat, Hispasat and others involved in the consortium.
There are also countries which are refusing access to Starlink. The latest is Botswana which has rejected Starlink’s application to serve consumers. Botswana says it wants more detail from SpaceX and proposals for a revenue share.
Starlink faces similar regulatory challenges in Southern Africa, with rejections also in South Africa and Zimbabwe but successes in Zambia, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
However, there are authoritative reports that South Africa has some 14,000 active Starlink users despite a lack of official licenses for Starlink. The reports suggest that people and businesses are making grey imports (ie: smuggling) from Eswatini, a self-governing country (formally Swaziland) East of Johannesburg and where Starlink has been granted a licence.