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EU initiates major space-based communication system initiative

The EU is putting forward a EUR6 billion (USD6.8 billion) initiative for an EU space-based secure communication system, the European Commission (EC) announced on 15 February.

The plan is to “ensure the long-term availability of worldwide uninterrupted access to secure and cost-effective satellite communication services. It will support the protection of critical infrastructures, surveillance, external actions, crisis management, and applications that are critical for member states' economy, security, and defence”, the announcement stated.

According to the announcement, the EU will contribute EUR2.4 billion between 2022 to 2027, with funding coming from the EU budget, member states, the European Space Agency, and the private sector.

The system will enable citizens and businesses across Europe to access reliable and fast broadband connection – including in communication dead zones – helping to meet one of the targets of the proposed 2030 Digital Decade, the announcement said. The system will also incorporate the latest quantum communication technologies for secure encryption, it added.

An EC official informed Janes that “[The] establishment of the programme will follow a gradual approach striving for quality. Initial development and deployment could start as of 2023; provision of initial services and in-orbit test of quantum cryptography by 2025; and full deployment with the integrated quantum cryptography allowing full services by 2028.

The EC previously published a call for proposals to small- and medium-sized businesses and start-ups that form part of the European New Space ecosystem. Two contracts were subsequently awarded in December 2021; a technical study is now underway with the results expected in June 2022, the EC official stated.

The system will also provide connectivity to areas of strategic interest such as Africa and the Arctic as part of the EU Global Gateway strategy, the announcement said.

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