France’s highest administrative court has stripped Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet constellation, of its frequency authorisations, ruling they were granted without public consultation despite its potential “significant market impact”. EURACTIV France reports.

It’s been an eventful week for Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

After becoming Twitter’s largest shareholder on Monday (4 April), the following day his satellite internet company was stripped of frequency authorisations by the Council of State, which overturned a 2021 decision by France’s regulatory body for electronic communications, ARCEP.

In its decision, ARCEP granted Starlink authorisation to use the 10.95-12.70 GHz (space-to-Earth) and 14-14.5 GHz (Earth-to-space) bands throughout France to offer a high-speed connection for all, particularly in underserved areas.

The solution proposed by Starlink is based on a network of small satellites deployed in low orbit about 550 kilometres above sea level.

The Council of State, however, ruled on Tuesday that ARCEP had not done its due diligence and cancelled this decision.

The court found that the telecom watchdog had failed in its duty to carry out proper public consultation, given that its challenged decision would “have a significant impact on the market for the provision of broadband internet access and to affect the interests of end-users”.

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EU states agree on need to build own satellite constellation

European Union ministers, meeting on space policy in Toulouse, on Wednesday (16 February) agreed that the bloc needed an autonomous satellite constellation infrastructure for high-speed internet access, France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

No consultation

Starlink’s expected growing market share is why the country’s highest administrative court criticised the telecoms regulator for granting these authorisations without consultation – the SpaceX subsidiary has already obtained authorisation to launch 12,000 of these satellites in the US, the Council of State’s ruling noted.

This means that Starlink’s service deployment in France, which began in May 2021, is discontinued, at least for now.

“By trying to go too fast, we end up burning bridges,” Stephen Kerckhove, general delegate of Agir pour l’Environnement, one of the petitioning associations, told AFP.

“The Council of State sends a signal to those who confuse speed with haste,” he added, calling on the French regulator to “not to be content with formally applying” the obligation of consultation and “carry out a proper economic and environmental assessment” of Musk’s project.

Musk wants to deploy up to 42,000 satellites in low earth orbit to make broadband accessible everywhere around the globe.

The SpaceX boss has also accelerated the deployment of receiving stations in Ukraine in response to the country’s call to make up for the infrastructure damaged by Russia’s strikes.

The French, however, will have to wait before they can do without traditional internet service providers, though it remains possible to order the satellite dish to receive the signal from Paris for €634 and monthly €99, according to Starlink’s website.


[Edited by Alice Taylor/Nathalie Weatherald]

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