European Union to boost secure communications with a new satellite system

Source: Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament reached a provisional agreement on a regulation establishing the EU's secure connectivity programme for the period 2023-2027.

Providing secure communication services to member states…

The programme sets goals for the European Union to deploy an EU satellite constellation called ‘IRIS2‘ (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite), which will enable secure communication services by 2027.

Cyberattacks and natural disasters can lead to the breakdown of terrestrial communication networks. The establishment of this constellation will provide for a better connected critical infrastructure and high-speed and resilient independent satellite communication services.

The programme will provide governmental services covering critical infrastructure protection, situational awareness, and support for external actions and crisis management. All of these services will improve the EU’s resilience.

 

…and facilitating broadband access for all users

The programme is not aimed merely at benefiting government bodies and EU institutions, but also enables the provision of commercial services by the private sector, thereby contributing to the competitiveness of European industry.

The programme is linked to the Commission’s proposal on the EU’s Global Gateway Strategy. It will enable the provision of affordable internet access everywhere in Europe and will provide secure connectivity over geographical areas of strategic interest, such as the Arctic region and Africa.

 

EU strategic autonomy

The programme is particularly important with regard to low Earth orbits which are increasingly occupied by third-country mega-constellations, with EU operators facing challenges due to the capital-intensive nature of such projects. The secure connectivity programme is therefore important as a means of increasing the EU’s resilience and its strategic autonomy in space and on the ground.

The initiative will benefit from the expertise of the European industrial space industry, both from the well-established industrial players and the New Space ecosystem. The programme builds on the GOVSATCOM component of the EU space programme. It will take into account synergies with the other components of the EU space programme, such as the Galileo (satellite navigation) and Copernicus (Earth observation) systems, as well as space situational awareness capacities.

 

Implementation

The Commission will be the owner of tangible and intangible assets relating to the governmental infrastructure developed under this programme. The financing of the secure connectivity programme will come from the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027. The programme deploys a total amount of €2.4 billion, part of which will be earmarked from programmes such as the EU space programme, Horizon Europe and the Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI). The programme will be implemented in cooperation with the European Space Agency and the European space industry.

The infrastructure will be procured by the Commission through a public-private partnership via competitively awarded contracts to industry. Selected contractors will develop, validate, build and deploy the EU-owned governmental infrastructure to provide strengthened governmental services. In addition, commercial infrastructure would also be used to provide governmental services as well as commercial services.

 

Next steps

The provisional agreement reached today is subject to approval by the Council and the European Parliament.

From the Council’s side, the provisional political agreement is subject to approval by member states representatives (in ‘Coreper’) before going through the formal steps of the adoption procedure.

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