EU Plans to Rival SpaceX Starlink with $6.8 Billion Satellite Internet Plan

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The European Union (EU) has revealed its plans to build its own low-earth orbit satellite system, with a 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion USD) investment.

Bloomberg reports the EU says it will spend 2.4 billion euros from its budget from 2022 until 2027, while the rest of funding will come from member countries, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) and private sector.

The move looks to rival SpaceX’s already established Starlink low-earth orbit satellite internet.

According to Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, he says it’s crucial for Europe to have its own “constellation” of satellites, speaking to the TV station BFM in France. Establishing its own satellite broadband will allow for increased cybersecurity of the EU bloc, while also ensuring internet access across Europe and Africa.

“This is of central importance in terms of our strategic and technical sovereignty,” said Breton at a press conference on Tuesday.

Executive Vice-President of the EU, Margrethe Vestager said, “Space technology is essential for our everyday life and security. Today’s initiatives will ensure secure, efficient connectivity at all times. It is benefitting both citizens and governments. It will play a key role in Europe’s digital transformation. And make us more competitive. I hope that an EU approach to space traffic management and space technology will guarantee a safe and sustainable use of space in the long run.”

Satellite internet startup OneWeb, which declared bankruptcy during COVID-19, was bought out by the UK government, and is seen as the next biggest rival to the EU’s plans, aside from SpaceX. A consortium including the UK, India’s Bharti Global, SoftBank Group Corp. and France’s Eutelsat SA have launched two-thirds of its first phase plan of 648 satellites into orbit.

It remains to be seen if the EU is able to launch enough satellites into orbit for its ambitious internet plan in space, within its budget and on schedule. Being able to launch consistent batches of internet satellites like SpaceX will definitely be a challenge, as right now, Elon Musk’s company remains the leader, as Starlink now has over 250,000 users.