The project of the British OneWeb to create a satellite communications system could potentially pose a threat to the national security of Russia. This was stated by the representative of the FSB, Vladimir Sadovnikov, reports Reuters.
“The guarantees that the satellite communications system is not of an intelligence nature and cannot harm the interests of the individual and society of the Russian Federation are more declarative in nature and cannot be reliably verified by the Russian side,” the agency said Sadovnikov.
The FSB also sees a threat in the OneWeb project in that it can become a monopolist in providing access to the Internet in remote regions of Russia. “The implementation of such foreign communication systems makes the activity of Russian telecom operators unprofitable, especially in hard-to-reach and sparsely populated areas, and the organization of communications by traditional means is very costly. This will put a number of Russian regions in complete dependence on the data of foreign communication systems, ”said the official.
The FSB insists that the way to ensure national security in this context may be a ban on foreign communication systems in Russia. "The only effective way to counter the threats arising from the deployment of foreign global satellite communications systems to provide broadband Internet access, especially in the Arctic and the Far North, is to limit their use in the Russian Federation and develop competitive domestic communication systems with similar functionality." It is possible to create an alternative to OneWeb, suggested by Sadovnikov, together with the states that “do not pursue an aggressive policy towards Russia” - for example, China and India.
The OneWeb project was founded by former Google manager Greg Wyler and involves the creation of an orbital constellation of about 900 satellites (according to the latest plans announced), providing global signal coverage. This, according to the company's plans, will allow by 2027 to provide all the inhabitants of the planet with high-speed Internet access. The project attracted more than $ 1.7 billion in investments from Airbus Group, Bharti, Coca-Cola, Hughes, Virgin Group, Richard Branson, Qualcomm, and SoftBank.
The OneWeb project relies on the Russian Soyuz launch vehicles, which should put part of the satellite constellation (21 launches) and Virgin Galactic Richard Branson (39 launches) into orbit (the corresponding contract was signed in 2015). The contract for the launches of the Soyuzov was concluded with the French Arianespace - it provides launches of Russian missiles from the Kura cosmodrome in French Guiana. In December 2017, Arianespace, in turn, agreed with Glavkosmos (a subsidiary of Roscosmos) on nine launches of Soyuz with satellites. The new contract, already for 11 launches, was concluded with the Space Center. Khrunichev. The missiles on this contract should start in the 2020s with Baikonur.
In June 2017, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum OneWeb and JSC Satellite System Gonets (part of the Roscosmos structure) signed an agreement on the creation of a joint venture LLC OneWeb. It was it who applied for the allocation of radio frequency bands for the use of the Russian segment of the orbital grouping. However, Roskomnadzor spoke against the approval of the application, despite the fact that both Roskosmos and the Federal Protection Service (FSO) had previously sanctioned the allocation of frequencies.
Consideration of the allocation of radio frequency bands has been postponed. According to Vedomosti, it was to be held at the next meeting of the State Commission for Radio Frequencies (SCRF) in early November. At the same time, as the sources of the publication clarified, there is another candidate for the same frequencies (12–18 GHz and 26.5–40 GHz) in the person of the Russian FSUE Space Communications (GPKS). At these radio frequencies, the company intends to deploy its own communication system with similar goals - providing access to communications in hard-to-reach areas. At the same time, this project is no longer focused on global use and is primarily intended for the polar regions of Russia.
Another threat to the OneWeb project, as was reported in July by Interfax sources at Baikonur, was a disagreement with the authorities of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Yakutia regarding the discovery of new areas of incidence of the Soyuz-2 missile blocks. The interlocutor of the agency claimed that the first launch of the Soyuz 2.1b launch vehicle with OneWeb satellites from Baikonur was postponed to June 2019. However, this period, the source suggested, may not be enough to resolve all disputes. A source in the administration of Yakutia also confirmed that the areas of the fall of the launch vehicle parts are still not coordinated.