The European Council adopted a regulation on the European Union’s secure connectivity programme for the period 2023-2027. This is the last step in the decision-making process.
The programme sets targets for the European Union to deploy an EU satellite constellation called IRIS (Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite). IRIS will provide ultra-fast and highly secure communication services by 2027. The security of these communications will be based on advanced encryption technologies. This includes quantum cryptography, a method that uses the properties of quantum mechanics to secure and transmit data in a way that cannot be hacked.
This space-based communication system will benefit Governments for services such as critical infrastructure protection, surveillance, external action support or crisis management, which will help improve EU resilience and sovereignty.
The programme contributes to the EU’s digital transition and global gateway strategy, as it can provide secure connectivity in geographic areas of strategic interest beyond European borders, such as the Arctic region or Africa.
Having a satellite-based communications system can also guarantee fast and secure communication services, even when terrestrial communication networks have been disrupted, for example, by natural disasters, terrorism or cyber-attacks.
The system includes new infrastructure to be built through the awarding of contracts. Concessionaires should also provide the resources for commercial services, thus ensuring that technological advances and their use by governments are one of the drivers of innovation and wider commercialisation in the Union.
The programme strengthens the competitiveness of EU satellite communications services through an innovative project led by the EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) and involving a number of partners, such as member states, the European Space Agency (ESA) and private companies.
On 15 February 2022, the Commission presented the proposed regulations establishing the programme. Following interinstitutional negotiations, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional political agreement on November 17, 2022.
This programme is especially important for low orbits. Today, low orbits are increasingly occupied by mega-constellations from third countries, and EU operators face challenges due to the capital-intensive nature of these projects.
This new project will promote synergies with the other components of the EU space programme, such as Galileo (satellite navigation) and Copernicus (Earth observation), and with space situational awareness capabilities. It is based on the European Union’s government satellite communications (GOVSATCOM), which is also a component of the EU space programme.
The programme has a budget of €2.4 billion, part of which comes from different envelopes, such as the EU space programme, Horizon Europe and the Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI).