The billionaires’ ambition to conquer sometimes experiences a brake. This is what (re) discovers the ubiquitous Elon Musk, president of the companies Tesla and SpaceX whose performances have regularly made the headlines for years. The second, one of whose activities is to deploy Starlink, a gigantic network of mini-satellites, is in France upset by court decisions.
→ ANALYSIS. Starlink satellites: the end of starry nights?
While the Council of State had quashed the decision of Arcep (Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications, Posts and Press Distribution) to grant frequency bands to Starlink, the administrative authority announced, Friday, April 8, the opening of a public consultation on the subject.
A first tranche 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 from the years 2018-2019, the network must have some, by 2025, nearly 12,000.
A first tranche has made it possible to launch, to date, just under 2,000, i.e. an infrastructure already sufficient to market an offer from May 2021. The operator’s argument, which to date claims nearly of 100,000 subscribers worldwide, is to offer access to the Net everywhere, including at sea, in the desert, and “rural and remote communities”.
Environmental associations got involved
However, while Arcep had, on February 9, 2021, authorized Starlink to use two frequency bands, the Council of State overturned this 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 the provision of high-speed Internet access, and to affect users”satisfied the request of the environmental associations which had seized it, Agir pour l’environnement and Priartem.
→ READ. Europe embarks on a constellation of telecommunications satellites
“Like 5G, out of bad habit, the public authorities consider that the environmental and health assessment is at best an obligatory passage, at worst a procedural concession that we can do without, believes Sophie Pelletier, head of Priartem. It is time for the public authorities to stop pushing through on such subjects 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: while the constellation must rely on ground stations, they had to give up installing two of the three initially planned for the national territory. Villenave-d’Ornon (Gironde) has agreed to host a station, unlike Gravelines (North) and Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron (Manche).
The inhabitants of the last town, located in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel and already a connection node for terrestrial fiber, followed the mayor’s refusal to see their town serve as “guinea pig”thus following the mistrust conveyed by the electrosensitive.
A consultation for thirty days
Arcep took note, not without noting that “the considered frequency band allowed multiple satellite actors to coexist, thus not leading to a frequency scarcity phenomenon”especially since several satellite-based Internet offers already coexist without their number exceeding a few tens of thousands among the 17 million very high-speed subscribers in France.
Friday 8, the telecoms policeman launched his compliance by opening a public consultation, in force until Monday, May 9 at 6 p.m. 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 ensure. Amazon initiated the Kuiper project (3,200 satellites) and recently signed a contract with ArianeGroup to help launch them, the British OneWeb has already sent 650 satellites. The Chinese Guowang project has 13,000.