FSB against satellite Internet from foreign operators

    Start of the Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with the Soyuz MS-10 manned spacecraft. Photo: RIA Novosti / Alexey Filippov

    Now several companies, including SpaceX and OneWeb, are planning to deploy a global satellite constellation and cover most of the world’s territory with high-speed Internet. But in Russia they may have difficulties. Local security services believe that a foreign operator threatens national security.

    OneWeb has submitted an application for the allocation of 12–18 GHz and 26.5–40 GHz frequencies in Russia, but the frequencies are not yet given . The reasons are explained by the representative of the FSB, Vladimir Sadovnikov . According to the FSB, the OneWeb satellite communications system "threatens Russia's national security and can be used for reconnaissance purposes."

    “The guarantees that the satellite communications system is not of an intelligence nature and cannot harm the interests of the individual and society of the Russian Federation are more declarative in nature and cannot be reliably verified by the Russian side,” said Sadovnikov during a conference in Moscow last week. - The implementation of such foreign communication systems makes the activity of Russian telecom operators unprofitable, especially in hard-to-reach and sparsely populated areas, and the organization of communications by traditional means is very costly. This will put a number of Russian regions in complete dependence on data from foreign communication systems. ”

    According to Sadovnikov, “the only effective way to counter the threats arising from the deployment of foreign global satellite communications systems to provide broadband Internet access, especially in the Arctic and the Far North, is to limit their use in the Russian Federation and develop competitive domestic communications systems with similar functional.

    Of course, Russia cannot launch hundreds of communications satellites on its own, although Sadovnikov believes that this can be done together with India and China. But the only real option is to get a controlling stake in the Russian representation of OneWeb.

    In 2017, OneWeb created a joint venture with the Gonets Satellite system, which is part of Roscosmos, to develop the project in Russia. OneWeb received 60% in OneWeb LLC, a Russian company 40%. Now the Russian side intends to increase its share to 51%, that is, to obtain a controlling stake and the possibility of management. About this Reuters told two sources - in the FSB and the Ministry of Digital Development and Communications. Apparently, until the issue of a share in the authorized capital is resolved, the issue of licensing frequencies will not be resolved either.

    “You can promise anything. But we must have appropriate legal guarantees. Now it's all in the development stage. It is clear that the project for the industry, for Roskosmos, is important, and here the financial side plays a role. But there are still issues of national security that are above all. So far there are a lot of questions for this project, in particular, why now, when all the sanctions are against us, ”a source told Reuters.

    OneWeb was founded by former Google manager Greg Wyler and plans to create a network of 900 low-orbit satellites. The project's investors are Airbus Group, Bharti, Coca-Cola, Hughes, Virgin Group, Qualcomm and SoftBank, who have invested about $ 1.7 billion in the project. By 2027, the company intends to provide high-speed Internet to all the inhabitants of the planet, as well as to provide all types of transport with communication , including aviation.

    The operation to obtain a controlling stake is simplified by the fact that OneWeb largely depends on Russia. In 2015, OneWeb signed an agreement with the French Arianspace and Roscosmos structures to launch several hundred communications satellites. They should be launched into Earth orbit with the help of 21 Soyuz launch vehicles from the Kuru and Baikonur space centers. The contract amount exceeds $ 1 billion, reportsReuters referring to the words of Igor Komarov, who previously held the post of general director of Roskosmos. 39 more launches are entrusted to the company Virgin Galactic Richard Branson.

    The contract to launch several hundred satellites is very important for OneWeb, but it is also important for Roskosmos. This is a lot of money and a serious client. Especially in the current situation, when no insurance company agrees to insure the launches of "Unions" , such customers should be valued.

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