back to article EU set to sign internet satellite deal, as UK frees up spectrum

The EU is said to be nearing a deal on building a satellite internet service to fill in gaps in terrestrial broadband coverage, as well as providing "strategic independence" for the region. The move comes as the UK telco regulator Ofcom announces more radio spectrum available for satellite broadband services as part of an …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    I assume that

    The British system will only orbit Britain and not go over the Eu

    1. LogicGate Silver badge

      Re: I assume that

      Have you not heard about geosynchronous orbits?

      The satelite will be hovering straight albove a location 7 km north west of Dunsop Bridge, Lancashire, by Whitendale Hanging Stones on Brennard Farm in the Forest of Bowland (SD 64188.3, 56541.43), which according to Ordnance Survey is the exact centre of the UK:

      https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/newsroom/blog/where-is-the-centre-of-great-britain-2

      Anything else would be foolish!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I assume that

        GB ≠ UK

        1. LogicGate Silver badge

          Re: I assume that

          Oops my bad,

          The indicated point is indeed the center of GB.

          The satelite may need extra maneuvering fuel so that it can move to various new center points as the GB bit by bit is reduced to SB.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: I assume that

            >The indicated point is indeed the center of GB.

            And therefore the center of the universe

        2. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: I assume that

          You're assuming that NI will still be in the UK by the time the satellite is launched.

          1. LogicGate Silver badge

            Re: I assume that

            Hence the added fuel....

      2. xyz Silver badge

        Re: I assume that

        I alwags thought it was up Nigel Farage's arse.

        1. Snowy Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: I assume that

          I thought that was at the ass end of Britain?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I assume that

          I alwags thought it was up Nigel Farage's arse

          Can't be...as he's in pretty close proximity, that particular 'Black Hole' would have sucked us all in by now.

          On the other hand, I haven't heard much from/about him lately, so maybe his words are unable to escape the huuuggee gravitational forces coming from said arse.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: I assume that

            "On the other hand, I haven't heard much from/about him lately,"

            I think he spends much of his time at his EU based holiday home dealing with his EU business interests.

            I do wonder if some of the high profile Brexiteers didn't want Brexit to improve the UK, but secretly thought the EU would be better off after Brexit as many of them seem to have significant EU business interests.

      3. Norman Nescio Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: I assume that

        <pedant>While all geostationary orbits are geosynchronous, geosynchronous orbits are a large superset of geostationary ones. Geostationary orbits, to the observer on the ground, make it appear as though the satellite is indeed 'hovering' over a fixed point on the equator. Unless you have a rather large amount of fuel available, you can't have a satellite hover over a non-equatorial point. You can do things like the geo-semi-synchronous (period of half a sidereal day) Molniya orbits, and geosynchronous (period of one sidereal day) Tundra orbits and QZSS orbits, where the ground track 'loiters' over a particular small area*, the idea being the satellite spends more time 'over' a particular area than elsewhere, but the laws of orbital mechanics mean it has to be elsewhere, the other side of the equator, at least some of the time.</pedant>

        It would be cheaper to moor a large balloon over the point in question. Keep it up by the hot air emitted by the Westminster parliament.

        *Molniya and Tundra orbits use Kepler's second law (a line segment joining a satellite and the body it orbits sweeps out equal areas in equal times). This means that a highly elliptical orbit allows a satellite to spend more time going round the focus of the ellipse that doesn't have the centre of mass of the body being orbited, so it appears to move more slowly over the area below it at the time. The disadvantage is that it is further away from the body it is orbiting, which is not ideal for radio communication (inverse square law). QZSS orbits are not highly elliptical, but use a combination of inclination and geosynchronicity to have a ground track that provides coverage to a small area preferentially.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: I assume that

          The obvious solution is a sun-synchronous polar orbit. This will sweep over the UK from the Seven to the Firth of Forth in a diagonal line each day.

          During this few minutes it will beam a laser death-ray line of free and non-polluting energy along the ground track.

          All we have to do is build a large solar receiver approximately along the line of the Danelaw and we can not only get a burst of energy once a day - but we can keep those southerners out.

    2. Justthefacts Silver badge

      Re: I assume that

      What are you talking about? I’m genuinely confused. There’s no mention of a U.K. system, and absolutely nor would we want one. Are you talking about this? “UK telco regulator Ofcom announces more radio spectrum available for satellite broadband services as part of an overhauled strategy for the sector.”

      Telesat, Inmarsat, Starlink and others.

      It is not just possible, but desirable, for commercial operators to build capacity rather than governmental. We have fifty years of data on this: the government-subsidised operators (e.g. Eutelsat) *can* provide some infrastructure…..but at a cost that means they are never profitable and continue to require large government subsidy forever. And they remain invested in ancient technologies long after sell-by. Satellite TV? It’s been a decade since anyone outside the Soviet Union watched non-on-demand content. Which is why Eutelsat are now hurting, as much of their income came from Russia Today, and still does.

      We’ve done the randomised, controlled experiment. Inmarsat *was* a Quango, but once it was privatised, now makes a healthy profit and has done ever since privatisation.

      For the love of god, stop wasting taxpayer on boondoggles when private commercials are perfectly capable of making a decent business case. The EU can do whatever it likes with French taxpayer money, I couldn’t give a flying b*.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: I assume that

        OneWeb was the UK system.

        It had its satellites held hostage by Russia, was taken over by Eutelsat, and now appears to be signing deals with Asian countries.

        1. Justthefacts Silver badge

          Re: I assume that

          Oneweb isn’t a “UK system”. It’s a private company headquartered in the UK. We aren’t France.

          In France, every major corporate, without exception and certainly including Eutelsat, is controlled at root by the Élysée Palace. Either directly by Golden Share, or indirectly by French gov owning a thing that owns a thing that owns a controlling interest in said “public” company. We aren’t France.

          Oneweb is very unusual, a private company that UK government temporarily rescued because Boris Johnson had a brain fart. Fortunately, we the U.K. taxpayer have largely avoided the financial consequences of that foolishness by getting some other idiots to dilute our share, in the process making us a mild profit on the deal. Basically once Macron saw Boris had a toy, he had to buy the toy too. It’s the greater fool theory. The faster we find other fools to dilute ownership, the better.

          This isn’t any comment on the Oneweb people or business case - the people I know well, and are excellent, the business case I’m agnostic on. They may well actually succeed. But government has no place there, and can only harm the place but adding idiotic requirements to “can’t you just add a bit of GPS on the satellites”.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: I assume that

            It was the UK system in that it was actually owned by the British government because they spent £400m on it and had the controlling interest in it (and still do have a special interest).

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: I assume that

              Although Boris spaffed that half billion because he thought it was the same as GPS.

            2. Justthefacts Silver badge

              Re: I assume that

              For a couple of months.

              The European Investment Bank owns $700bn of “assets”, and you’re thinking that $0.4bn makes OneWeb a U.K. company? Some examples of things the EIB has a controlling interest in. $8bn of Ukrainian power and transport companies, including the entire Kyiv public transport system (loan made pre-2020). A private motorway in Chad ($140m). A controlling interest in Beijing Airport: $1.3bn in three tranches, one a hands-length transaction to avoid triggering risk-management protocols. R&D funding for the Region of Madrid ($366M): now, it’s really important to understand what’s going on here - this isn’t funding as in Horizon2020 - this is a *commercial loan* to the university predicated on the idea that all that R&D must produce something of commercial value, although they don’t know what it will be, and promising to sell the IP on the open market to pay back the initial loan. Yes, really.

              Exactly none of which assets the EIB have written off, they are all on the books of the EU taxpayer. To be clear, this is *not included paid for by the member nations EU contributions*. All the $700bn is outside that. It’s the EIB writing cheques backed by nothing at all, and pinky promising that none of the loans go bad (which as you can see, $8bn already clearly have done in Ukraine). And it’s in the treaty that if the loans do go bad, the member states have to find new money to cover it…..which will have to come out of taxes at that time, but it’s not in anyones budget.

              Now, you may be thinking “well maybe $700bn isn’t that much spread across 27 countries”. I’ve got news for you. The EIB is only one of eight “off-balance sheet” schemes that the EU has run up invisible liabilities on. Currently the EU has over $4.5trillion ownership of “assets” that may or may not be assets. That’s before we even get to what the individual nations owe/own for things like COFACE.

  2. adam 40 Silver badge

    Not only do they want our fish....

    .. they are after our spectrum too?

    Hopefully their Electric Rays will not harm our Antenna Codlets!

    1. steelpillow Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Not only do they want our fish....

      Talking of bad puns, yesterday we were watching a wacko doc on how the Ark of the Covenant had two cherubim on top with outstretched wings and an electric arc was truck between the wing tips to activate an extraterrestrial communications receiver.

      I cracked one ark/arc pun too many and got hit by a frying pan to shut me up. Such is life.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: Not only do they want our fish....

        Ark ark ark!!!!

        Anyway, the puns were Ruddy Brill!

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Not only do they want our fish....

          > Ark ark ark!!!!

          How did you know the aliens were Venusian and not Martians? Ack, ack ack ack!

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    If only...

    we were a major player in some sort of union of countries, we could be part of, and reap the benefits of all this.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: If only...

      @Will Godfrey

      "we were a major player in some sort of union of countries, we could be part of, and reap the benefits cost of all this."

      FIFY

    2. Justthefacts Silver badge

      Re: If only...

      I worked half my career in that industry. You do understand that almost all satellite operators historically have gone bankrupt? *especially* the large constellations. Teledesic, Iridium (three times!), Globalstar, Intelsat, Global Eagle, are just the first to mind.

      Investment isn’t just flopping money on the table, and waiting for returns. There are other players. You are going to be operating in competition with Starlink, Oneweb and Amazon Kuiper. It’s like sitting down to a game of poker: if you can’t identify who is the patsy among the other players at the table, *it’s you*.

      What is the unique competitive advantage of this EU satellite constellation? Starlink can access launch capability at less than half its competitors. Amazon has deeper pockets: in a poker game where the EU thinks it’s going to spend $5bn, and probably have to bow out once the costs reach $20-30bn (which they will), Amazon can easily invest $200bn and give away nearly free Internet for 15 years until the EU just gives up. Oneweb are able to manufacture satellites at less than a quarter Airbus and Thales price for the exact same products.

      What is Thierry Breton’s unique expertise in all this? Writing cheques with other peoples money? How are they going to win the commercial market, what’s their angle?

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