The EU has reached a deal to build a €6 billion satellite internet system, driven by the bloc’s push to boost its space and communications sectors, while ensuring internet security by curbing reliance on foreign suppliers.

This initiative was first proposed in February 2022, but the European Parliament and Commission only reached a provisional agreement on Thursday.

This new scheme comes amidst rising concerns about Russian and Chinese military advances in outer space and a surge in satellite launches.

In response, the 27-nation bloc wants to reclaim its internet strategic autonomy and competitive position in space.

“The secure connectivity program will build a multi-orbital constellation of hundreds of satellites, which will cover the EU’s need for secure communication services and will underpin our position as one of the main players in space,” said Martin Kupka, Czech minister for transport, in the associated press release.

The Galileo satellite, the EU’s Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS). Credit: Galileo GNSS

To realize this goal, the EU is to deploy a proprietary satellite constellation called “IRIS2” (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity, and Security by Satellite).

Perhaps the biggest benefit IRIS2 will bring to the table is fast broadband internet access for all users across Europe.

“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,” said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, when the project was first announced.

“It will be a truly pan-European project allowing our many startups and Europe as a whole to be at the forefront of technological innovation,” he added.

In fact, facilitating reliable and fast internet connectivity could ensure the right technical infrastructure businesses need to achieve or improve their digitalization — especially in areas where significant barriers remain.

And this potential competitive advantage could be further enhanced by a secure proprietary internet system, which minimizes the risk of data interception by dangerous third parties.

To fund this promising scheme, the Commission wants to divert €2.4 billion from various EU projects, while the private sector is expected to contribute the remaining €3.6 billion.

While the project is subject to approval by the 27 EU member states, it’s safe to say that its implementation would play a vital role in Europe’s digital transformation, cyber sovereignty, and competitiveness.