When Elon Musk brags since I became the majority shareholder of Twitter, he has every chance of becoming disillusioned with Starlink’s situation in France. And rightly so, the satellite internet access service launched by the American billionaire has just suffered a major setback in France, a decision by the Council of State that has endorsed the appeal of the environmental associations Priartem and Agir pour l’milieu. I, François Lafforgue, the lawyer of the two associations, indicated that this decision prohibited Starlink from using the hertz frequencies that benefited the service, which should therefore lead to the immediate discontinuation of the latter.
By going in the direction of the complaining associations, the Council of State found that the Netherlands Authority for the Telecom (Arcep) was wrong. which allocated two frequency bands to Starlink in February 2021† However, the administrative court accuses Arcep of not having held a public consultation before granting it permission to operate frequencies that would allow Elon Musk’s service to connect its satellites to the terminals of French users. In the eyes of the Council of State, this approach was “likely to have a significant impact on the market for the provision of high-speed Internet access, and impact on users”† Stephen Kerckhove, General Delegate for the Environment, welcomes the decision of the Council of State, which “sends a signal to those who confuse speed with haste”†
Leaving two of three French Starlink stations
Launched in France in May 2021, the Starlink satellite internet offering was an attractive solution for providing a high-speed connection in areas poorly served by fiber or even ADSL, especially in rural areas. But the project soon encountered opposition from some local elected officials. In this context, Starlink gave up two of the three stations that the subsidiary Space X wanted to deploy in France at the beginning of this year.
At Starlink’s request, Arcep has therefore withdrawn the frequency use authorizations for the stations planned for Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron (Manche), where the town hall of Saint-Senier had issued an “opposition order” in December 2021, and in Gravelines (North), whose mayor had refused the building permit in the first quarter of 2021. Local residents were concerned about the possible effects of the wave emissions from these stations intended to communicate with small Starlink satellites. The last Starlink station still approved by Arcep is located in Villenave d’Ornon (Gironde), on the outskirts of Bordeaux.
A constellation of 12,000 satellites in 2025
As a reminder, Starlink is not based on a single satellite in geostationary orbit (about 36,000 km), like the previously used satellite solutions, but on a large number of small satellites (260 kg) deployed in low Earth orbit (in clusters of 60). These move at an altitude of about 550 km and communicate with relay stations on the ground, which are responsible for transmitting the data they receive from a fiber optic link. The connection to the user is made only through a small dish that is automatically aimed at the Starlink satellites.
To be the first “rebuilding the internet in space”, ambition declared in 2015, SpaceX plans to launch a total of 12,000 Starlink satellites into orbit by 2025. But Elon Musk plans to launch 30,000 more to reach a total of 42,000 satellites and allow him to flood the world with a broadband internet connection. Starlink has already launched nearly 2,000 satellites into space, of which just over 1,500 are actually active. To date, the service claims over 100,000 subscribers worldwide.