The Daily Telegraph

Musk’s space ‘monopoly’ a threat to UK jobs, says Viasat

- By Matthew Field

ELON MUSK is building a space “monopoly” that risks jobs in Britain’s space industry, one of his satellite rivals has claimed.

The Tesla billionair­e’s Starlink satellite network, a 3,000-strong constellat­ion providing broadband to remote areas, could have a “significan­t negative impact” on UK companies, Viasat warned.

Viasat, a US space company that is due to take over British satellite company Inmarsat in a £6bn deal, made the claims in a filing with telecoms regulator Ofcom.

The US satellite company has been locked in a bitter row with Mr Musk’s rocket company Spacex, which owns the Starlink network, accusing it of posing an environmen­tal risk and threatenin­g to interfere with rival satellites.

Spacex, meanwhile, has lobbied US regulators to deny Viasat permission to merge with Inmarsat, accusing it of “blatant” violations of telecoms regulation­s. In filings with the US communicat­ions regulator, it also accused Viasat of a “misguided campaign” against it to “impede competitio­n at all costs and protect its legacy technology”.

The filings with Ofcom see that row spilling over into the UK as Starlink seeks to expand its broadband service across rural Britain.

Starlink has applied for permission with the telecoms regulator to build six satellite “earth stations” across the UK. These ground bases link its satellite network to the backbone of the internet. It already leases capacity from ground stations on the Isle of Man, in Cornwall and in Buckingham­shire.

Mr Musk’s satellite business started offering broadband connection­s in the UK last year, which currently cost £75 per month with an upfront cost of £460 for a satellite dish. Customers install a small satellite dish and can pick up broadband signals from passing Starlink satellites, which are 340 miles high in “low earth” orbit, at speeds comparable to terrestria­l broadband.

But rivals have accused Starlink

of “resource-grabbing” in an effort to blanket the sky in satellites ahead of the competitio­n.

Starlink is increasing­ly attempting to encroach on rival Viasat’s in-flight Wi-fi business. Earlier this year, it signed its first deal with Hawaiian Airlines.

In its filing with Ofcom, Viasat claimed Starlink’s growing satellite power risked harming the UK space sector.

“The loss in value for the British economy and the correspond­ing negative

impact on jobs would be tremendous,” it claimed.

Inmarsat, another rival, also warned of Starlink’s potential impact on competitio­n and the environmen­t. It said launching thousands of satellites could raise orbital debris and light pollution.

On Friday, the Business Department waved through Inmarsat’s merger with Viasat after a national security review. The deal still faces an investigat­ion by the Competitio­n and Markets Authority.

Starlink was contacted for comment.

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 ?? ?? A Spacex Falcon 9 rocket, with a payload of Starlink satellites, lifts off from Florida
A Spacex Falcon 9 rocket, with a payload of Starlink satellites, lifts off from Florida

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