Why Starlink, Elon Musk’s satellite internet service, has only one station left in France

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Starlink, the satellite internet access service launched by Elon Musk, has only one ground station left in France, after the end of the Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron (Manche) and Gravelines projects (North), we learned Monday from Arcep, which issues authorizations for these stations. Starlink allows residents of areas poorly served by the fixed and mobile networks of telecom operators to have access to the Internet, via thousands of small satellites circulating in low orbit (mainly 550 kilometers) around the Earth. The system also needs ground stations all around the globe communicating with the satellites.

At Starlink’s request, Arcep revoked the frequency use authorizations for two of the three stations that Starlink planned in France, she told AFP. The last Starlink station still authorized by Arcep is located in Villenave d’Ornon (Gironde), in the Bordeaux suburbs. The authorization for the station of Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron (Manche) was repealed on January 4, and that for Gravelines (North) on January 20, according to information transmitted by the gendarme of the telecoms.

From locally contested projects

The two projects were disputed locally: the mayor of Gravelines had refused to grant the building permit in the first quarter of 2021. And the town hall of Saint-Senier had issued an “opposition order” in December 2021. In both cases, locals were concerned about the potential effects of wave emissions from these stations intended to communicate to Starlink’s small satellites. The National Frequency Agency, managers of radio-electric frequencies in France, considered for its part that these stations, emitting only towards the sky, did not present any risks for the population. The Saint-Senier project was to be established on an agricultural plot of 3 hectares. In particular, it provided for the installation of 9 domes housing the communication antennas with the satellites.

Native of Saint-Senier-de-Beuvron, the former regional councilor of Basse-Normandie and co-founder of Attac François Dufour welcomed Starlink’s decision to abandon the project in his native village. “It’s a relief for a protected valley like ours“, Mr. Dufour told AFP. According to estimates by the specialized press, Starlink has already launched nearly 2,000 small 250-kilogram satellites into space, of which just over 1,500 are actually active. The service currently has more than 100,000 subscribers worldwide, according to public statements by Starlink officials. Starlink is a subsidiary of Space X, the space company of billionaire Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla.

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