France’s supreme administrative court has revoked SpaceX’s license to provide internet services in the country through its Starlink mega-constellation, citing monopolization concerns due to the size and scale of the company’s operations.
France’s telecoms regulator Arcep granted the license to SpaceX in February 2021 without first holding a public consultation, the court found.
The judicial appeal was spearheaded by two environmental organizations that cited the mega-constellation’s potential impacts on the environment, including light pollutionspace debris and also human health.
However, the court based its decision to revoke the license primarily on the grounds that the nature of spacexThe business of — which includes rocket and satellite manufacturing, launch services, satellite operations and telecommunications services — could distort the market and eliminate competition, ultimately negatively affecting French consumers.
“This project could even upset the economic balance of other sectors due to SpaceX’s vertical integration strategy,” the court’s public rapporteur said in an April 5 report. “By manufacturing their own satellites, launchers to put them into orbit, pilot the constellation and market their own telecommunications services, star link compete with satellite manufacturers, [European launch provider] Arianespace, manufacturers of radio network equipment and telephone operators”.
Arcep will have to comply with the court’s decision and reconsider SpaceX’s request. The regulator has now invited the public to submit their objections by May 9.
In a sentence Released on April 8, Arcep defended its earlier decision, claiming that Starlink’s operations would not have a “significant impact on the market or affect the interests of end users.”
“The frequency band in question allows the cohabitation of multiple players in the satellite industry and, therefore, does not create a situation of spectrum scarcity,” Arcep said in the statement. “In addition, on the day the authorization was granted, other super-fast satellite broadband plans were already available, whose users number in the tens of thousands, among the more than 17 million super-fast broadband subscribers in France.”
SpaceX currently operates about 2,000 satellites of a planned first-generation Starlink constellation of 12,000 spacecraft that orbit about 340 miles (550 kilometers) above Earth. Ultimately, the company wants to fly many more Starlink satellites, up to 42,000 or more. SpaceX, however, is not the only player in the fast-growing low-Earth orbit Internet provisioning business. OneWeb it plans a constellation of some 650 satellites, more than half of which are already in orbit. Owned by Amazon Kuiper Systems has plans for a constellation of more than 3,000 satellites.
Traditional players, such as the American company Viasat or SES, based in Switzerland, use geostationary satellites that hover over a fixed point on Earth at a distance of 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) to provide Internet services to remote areas. . Many of these companies oppose SpaceX’s plans.
A source familiar with the Starlink license appeal who did not wish to be named told Space.com that Arcep will likely grant the license again, but may add additional conditions compared to the original agreement.
“There could be more conditionality attached to the [new] leave about putting the burden of proof on Starlink to show that the size of the constellation does not mean they are going to burn up all the orbital positions and create problems with frequency interference,” the source said. than an open license.
The French decision, the source said, could affect the future of Starlink in neighboring Germany, where SpaceX received a one-year provisional license in December 2020, which was later extended while a new government was formed.
“I think the French ruling could also have an impact on how Germany will see it,” the source said.
Since the launch of the first batch of Starlink satellites in May 2019, astronomers have warned that the low-orbiting spacecraft will cause a disruption in astronomy that could possibly be worse than light pollution. Space security experts have warned that due to the large number of satellites, the collision risk in orbits around the Earth will increase. Atmospheric scientists have warned that the sheer amount of metal that will burn up in the atmosphere as SpaceX regularly replenishes its constellation and takes aging spacecraft out of orbit could cause dangerous damage. changes in the planet’s climate.
The project, however, has recently gained more positive press for its contribution to keeping worn ukraine connected.
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