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Russia's government bans the use of satellite Internet without ground stations

Source: RBC

The Russian government has adopted a resolution requiring all satellite traffic in Russia (including telephone and Internet communications) to transmit through ground stations. The new requirements take effect in six months.

According to the magazine RBC, the resolution is based on findings by the Communications Ministry that operators might create a national security threat by offering “uncontrolled use of foreign satellites communication systems and access to the Internet across Russia.”

Sergey Pekhterev, the head of the Russian satellite communications operator AltegroSky, told RBC that the new government resolution means foreign satellite companies will also need to receive licenses from the Federal Security Service (FSB), Federal Protective Service, and Defense Ministry. This grueling approval process would take at least a year, Pekhterev says. The new requirements also won’t prevent foreign satellites from orbiting above Russia, leaving the supposed national security threat in place, Pekhterev argues.

Last October, the FSB objected to a high-level deal that brings OneWeb satellite Internet access to remote parts of Russia, arguing that the satellite Internet “constellation” poses an espionage threat. “In 2017, OneWeb strengthened its partnership with Roscosmos by creating a joint venture with satellite operator Gonets, a subsidiary of Roscosmos, to develop the project in Russia,” Reuters reported last fall, citing government sources who claim Gonets will later become a controlling stakeholder in the joint venture. The FSB opposes OneWeb, despite the fact that the U.S. company reached a $1-billion agreement with Roscosmos in 2015 to launch the needed satellites, the first of which are supposed to go up aboard Soyuz rockets on February 28.