The European Commission has set out a EUR6 billion satellite communications plan which could help serve as a back-up system in the event of a cyber-attack.
The move is part of a push to cut the EU’s dependence on foreign companies and protect key communications services and surveillance data against any outside interference.
The Secured Communications initiative has been put forward by Thierry Breton, the internal market commissioner, who wants the EU to build a third satellite system in lower earth orbit (LEO) for secured communications and access to the internet.
The EU already has Galileo, a global navigation system, and Copernicus, which is used for earth observation.
The signal from the new system would be encrypted and offered to Europe and Africa to give that continent an alternative to Chinese-built infrastructure.
Significantly, it would also provide a back-up in case of cyber-attacks.
The move comes amid growing concerns over Russian and Chinese military advances in outer space and a surge in satellite launches from commercial operators such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
“Our new connectivity infrastructure will deliver high-speed internet access, serve as a back-up to our current internet infrastructure, increase our resilience and cyber security, and provide connectivity to the whole of Europe and Africa,” Thierry Breton said in a statement.
The EU proposal aims to build and operate a space-based state-of-the-art connectivity system, help to counter cyber and electromagnetic threats and improve the resilience of EU telecommunication infrastructures
The 6 billion euro cost will be funded by a 2.4 billion euro contribution from the EU from 2022 until 2027, the EU budget, EU countries, the European Space Agency and private investments.
The EU aims to launch the programme next year.