Communication for all
The daughter of Roskosmos State Corporation - Russian Space Systems (RKS) - on Tuesday, May 22, presented a draft of the new Russian global satellite communications system Efir. It is planned that the system will consist of 288 orbiting satellites with an altitude of 870 km and will ensure coverage by the signal of the entire surface of the Earth. Its users will be able to access telephone services and Internet access. This includes, inter alia, services for the Internet of things, monitoring of traffic and unmanned vehicles, the RCC said. It also says that mining and energy companies, housing and utilities, agriculture, transport, e-commerce, medicine, education and the entertainment industry are interested in the project. To deploy "Ether" should by 2025.
To implement the project, the RCC intends to form a consortium with the participation of the Rocket and Space Corporation Energia and representatives of the telecom industry. At the same time, the RCC will try to create a system based on Russian solutions and components, the report said.
"Ether" is a brand under which the global multifunctional infocommunication satellite system (GMISS) will operate. For the first time, the plans to create the HMISS became known in the fall of 2017: the project was included in the plan of measures for the "Digital Infrastructure" program in the state program "Digital Economy" (in December the document was approved by the government commission on the use of IT to improve the quality of life and business conditions under the leadership of the Prime- minister Dmitry Medvedev).
Money to take off
In 2017, the total cost of the project was estimated at 299 billion rubles. until 2020. In the plan of events it was noted that this would be extrabudgetary funds. In January-March 2018, the Supervisory Board of Vnesheconombank (VEB) was to decide on the financing of the project on the basis of the investment project presented by Roskosmos. However, this did not happen. As the source of RBC, close to the developers of the HMISS concept, told, it is still not decided whether it is expedient in principle to finance the creation of the system.
299 billion rubles. - this is a capital investment in the project for six to seven years, said deputy director for strategic development and innovation of the RCC Eugene Nesterov at a company event in Moscow. "We need to build a huge infrastructure, detailed calculations are being refined, as the design of the functions that the grouping of the devices will perform," he said.
According to him, in the next three to four months the company intends to clarify the model of the grouping and business, and in the fall to start designing together with partners. He refused to name the partners, but said that in Russia the company is negotiating with RSC Energia. Commenting on VEB's refusal to agree on financing, the RCC representative said that the bank remains the financial partner of the project: "The stage that we plan to launch at the moment is realized without additional financing. We are talking about forming the image of the system, developing the market and specifying the cost estimates for the project. " According to him, this year the company plans to submit to the VEB an application "for tens of millions of rubles."
In addition, the RCC plans to attract money from private investors and funds. "Naturally, loan financing will be used: negotiations with financial institutions are under way. Perhaps, after we clarify our business model, the sources of financing will be supplemented by budget funds, "Nesterov admitted.
However, experts from the space industry believe that the project will not be easy to attract money from private investors. "The project is interesting, but it's rather risky, since the space industry is not the most attractive investment market at all. Therefore, funds for the development of "Ether" should be sought from the major representatives of the telecom industry, who will be interested in the development of this system, "said Pavel Pushkin, director of the Cosmocourse design company.
The head of the satellite operator AltegroSky Sergey Pekhterev was more categorical. "The project is not trusted in the future of the project, since it is copying already developed foreign systems, such as OneWeb and SpaceX, which have stepped much further than the Russian" Ether, "he said.
According to Pekhterev, due to sanctions, the project will be in demand only in the Russian market. In addition, it can compete with "Express RV" - a satellite communication and broadcasting system used to cover the Arctic, which has already been technically fully developed. "Thus, there are doubts that the invested money will be returned to investors. It's hard for me to imagine that market participants or private investors will decide to invest in Efir. The only chance for the RCC is to get a grant from the state, "he suggested.
Competitors in orbit
The project of StarX company SpaceX by Ilona Mask presupposes the creation of a group of 12 thousand satellites, which will provide high-speed Internet access to almost the entire population of the planet. In April of this year, the president and COO of SpaceX, Gwynn Schottwell, estimated the costs for it at $ 10 billion. The first satellites were launched in February 2018, and their placement in near-earth orbit is planned to be completed by 2024.
British OneWeb plans to launch 720 low-Earth orbiting satellites that will cover the entire planet and will provide an Internet access service. The project attracted more than $ 1.7 billion in investments from Airbus Group, Bharti, Coca-Cola, Hughes, Virgin Group, Qualcomm, and SoftBank. OneWeb's full-fledged work in Russia was questioned - Roskomnadzor spoke against the allocation of frequencies to the Russian "OneWeb" (a joint venture of OneWeb and "daughter companies" of Roskosmos, JSC "Satellite system" Gonets "). If the agency does not change its position, "WanVeb" will not be able to officially offer services on the territory of Russia.
Yevgeny Nesterov at the event said that the RCC is realizing its project "taking into account the plans of foreign colleagues". As he said, "Ether" is more similar to SpaceX, and OneWeb for the company "more likely a partner".