Germany Joins European Military Bandwidth-sharing Program

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TORONTO — The European Defence Agency (EDA) on Oct. 1 said Germany had become the 10th European Union nation to join EDA’s program to pool and share purchases of commercial satellite bandwidth for military and government use.

Brussels-based EDA, which is an arm of the 28-nation European Union, said in a statement that since May 2013, the nine existing program members had placed 18 orders for satellite capacity valued at about 2 million euros ($2.6 million).

“EDA is working on enlarging the services offered through the project, as well as attracting additional Members to increase the pooling effect,” EDA said.

The EDA-coordinated European Satellite Procurement Cell was created in September 2012, with the agency contracting with Airbus Defence and Space to act as program manager. The goal is to obtain lower per-megahertz pricing for commercial bandwidth when several nations agree to share it.

Many of these nations are interested in the same communications links during crises. Sharing bandwidth means they can order larger amounts of bandwidth, or extend the lease periods, lowering the per-megahertz/month cost.

The program remains small, but Germany’s accession to it is significant insofar as Germany — like Britain, France and Italy, which are longstanding program participants — has its own military satellite communications program. It also leases capacity from commercial fleet operator Intelsat of Luxembourg and Washington as part of its Satcom Bw program, which includes two German-owned satellites in orbit.

EDA had hoped that the satcom procurement cell would give members a taste of the savings afforded by group purchases and ultimately lead to a consolidation of military satellite communications efforts in Europe, where five nations — also including Italy and Spain — operate their own satellites.

France and Italy have gone further than any other nations in pooling investment, placing separate payloads on a single communications satellite, and on a broadband satellite for civil and military use.

Despite capacity replacement deadlines coming for the nations now operating their own spacecraft, and despite pressure on all their defense budgets, these nations have not been able to agree on coordinating their next-generation systems.

Belgium, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland and Romania are the other members of the EDA program.