The conquest ambition of billionaires sometimes meets the brakes. This is what (re)discovers the ubiquitous Elon Musk, president of Tesla and SpaceX, whose performances have regularly made headlines for years. The second, which has as one of its activities the implementation of Starlink, a gigantic network of mini-satellites, is in France shaken by court decisions.
→ ANALYSIS. Starlink Satellites: The End of Starry Nights?
Although the Council of State annulled the decision of Arcep (Entidade Reguladora das Comunicações Eletrónicas, Correios e Distribuição de Imprensa) to grant frequency bands to Starlink, the administrative authority announced, on Friday, April 8, the opening of a consultation public on the matter.
A first installment of nearly 2,000 satellites
What is Starlink? A network, whose sketches date back to 2015 and which aims to offer high-speed Internet via satellites placed in low Earth orbit and… in very large numbers: deployed between the years 2018-2019, the network should have some, by 2025 , about 12,000.
A first tranche made it possible to launch, to date, just under 2,000, that is, an infrastructure already sufficient to market an offer from May 2021. The operator’s argument, which to date has around 100,000 subscribers throughout the world, is to offer access to the Network everywhere, including at sea, in the desert and “rural and remote communities”.
Environmental associations got involved
However, while Arcep on February 9, 2021 authorized Starlink to use two frequency bands, the Council of State revoked that decision on Tuesday, April 5. The highest administrative authority in the country, considering that Arcep had not carried out a “public consultation”for a decision “likely to have a significant impact on the market for providing high-speed Internet access and affect users”it complied with the request of the environmental associations that had seized it, Agir pour l’environnement and Priartem.
→ READ. Europe embarks on a constellation of telecommunications satellites
“Just like 5G, out of bad habit, the public power considers that the environmental and health assessment is, at best, a mandatory passage, at worst, a procedural concession that we can do without, believes Sophie Pelletier, head of Priartem. It is time for public authorities to stop insisting on such matters and finally accept the necessary public debate. »
One ground station instead of three
A blow for Starlink, whose leaders had already seen that they were not necessarily welcomed with open arms in France: although the constellation should have earth stations, they had to give up on installing two of the three initially planned for the national territory. Villenave-d’Ornon (Gironde) agreed to host a station, unlike Gravelines (North) and Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron (Manche).
The inhabitants of the last city, located in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel and already a connection node for terrestrial fiber, followed the mayor’s refusal to see their city serve as a “Guinea pig”thus following the distrust conveyed by the electrosensible.
A thirty day consultation
Arcep took note, not without noticing that “the frequency band considered allowed the coexistence of several satellite actors, not leading to a phenomenon of frequency scarcity”especially since several satellite Internet offers already coexist without their number exceeding a few tens of thousands among the 17 million very high-speed subscribers in France.
On Friday the 8th, the telecommunications officer launched his greeting by opening a public consultation, in force until Monday, May 9, at 18:00h. At the end of the procedure, Starlink will know if it can use its two frequency bands, which the other constellation initiators will not fail to guarantee. Amazon started the Kuiper project (3,200 satellites) and recently signed a contract with ArianeGroup to help launch them, Britain’s OneWeb has already sent 650 satellites. The Chinese Guowang project has 13,000.