The European parliament has agreed to back a €2.4bn programme to build a secure quantum satellite network for the region.
The Secure Connectivity Programme will run from 2023-2027 to deploy a constellation of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) that will include the latest quantum communication technologies for secure encryption in the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI).
The IRIS² (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite) is the third flagship space programme after Galileo for navigation and Copernicus for monitoring. It is key for a sovereign, autonomous and secured connectivity infrastructure in the region says the European Commission.
This network would ensure guaranteed access in an unrestricted manner, avoiding dependencies on third-countries and reinforcing the resilience of the European value chains.
The Commission will now present several implementing plans and the tender specifications for setting up the Secure Connectivity system.
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Set to start operation in 2024, the quantum satellite network will support a large variety of government applications in border surveillance, crisis management and secure communications for EU embassies, but it will also allow mass-market applications including mobile and fixed broadband satellite access, satellite trunking for B2B services, satellite access for transportation, reinforced networks by satellite and satellite broadband and cloud-based services.
“Secure and efficient connectivity will play a key role in Europe’s digital transformation and make us more competitive. Through this Programme, the EU will be at the forefront of secure satellite communication, as it is today with Galileo for satellite navigation and with Copernicus for earth observation,” said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age.
It will also add payloads that will boost the development of high-speed broadband and seamless connectivity throughout the Union, removing communication dead zones and increasing cohesion across Member State territories, and allow connectivity over geographical areas of strategic interest outside of the Union.
This comes after Eutelsat approved the acquisition of the UK’s OneWeb LEO broadband constellation. The deal still has to get shareholder approval in Q2 or Q3 next year,