Making the best of satellite connectivity: how IRIS² can bring Europe and Africa closer together
19 October 2023
The EU Global Action on Space is organising an event on satellite connectivity for Africa in Dakar, on 24 October 2023. The event will bring together, among others, representatives from the European Commission, the African Union Commission, the Senegalese Space Agency and Senegal’s Ministry of Telecommunications as well as stakeholders from the African satellite telecommunications ecosystem. The event will aim at fostering future collaboration opportunities between Europe and Africa based on the new EU IRIS² satellite connectivity programme.
IRIS²: a technology setter for Europe and Africa
Promoting a green and digital future is a key priority of the European Commission. Economy and security increasingly depend on secure and resilient connectivity. The European Union is further expanding its technological offer with a new space component: the new Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnection & Security by Satellites (IRIS²). IRIS² will consist of a multi-orbit satellite constellation and a ground-based system set to provide state-of-the-art communication services that will cover the whole of Europe and Africa. The EU aims to provide first services as soon as 2025.
Applications will cover both the governmental and commercial sectors. Secure communication channels featuring enhanced coverage, throughput and latency will support governmental users in a number of tasks and operations, such as crisis management and the protection of key infrastructures.
IRIS² will also represent a new launching pad for mass-market applications thanks to the provision of mobile and fixed satellite broadband coverage, cloud-based services and additional satellite-powered services to geographically underserved areas.
IRIS² can provide benefits to African stakeholders, including:
- Coverage of internet “dead zones”: thanks to its North-South orbits, IRIS² is set to provide high-speed broadband services throughout Africa, eliminating some of its communications dead zones. This would not only improve intra-continental communication but also the digital cohesion between Africa and Europe.
- High-speed broadband for commercial services: High-speed broadband services will enable the private sector to take advantage of secure connectivity services, creating new opportunities for business partnerships between African and European entities and allowing African enterprises to provide reliable services.
- Broadband and low-data rate services for governmental users
The event will offer a key opportunity to discuss the potential role of IRIS² in Africa and the involvement of key representatives of the African public sphere and the African satellite communications ecosystem. IRIS² is the latest addition to the EU Space Programme, which already covers Earth Observation (Copernicus), Navigation (Galileo) and signals enhancement (EGNOS) aspects.
The Africa-EU Partnership in space
Due to the longstanding Africa-EU partnership, the African Union is among the most valued partners in the space domain: through the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa), the EU and the AU have been enjoying a strong collaboration in the domain of Earth Observation, while satellite navigation is at the centre of the EU-ASECNA Agreement and the Joint Programme Office for Satellite Navigation in Africa (JPO).
The EU and the African Union had the opportunity to reaffirm the importance of their partnership last April at the New Space Africa Conference 2023 by jointly organising a dedicated Roundtable and Seminar.
The upcoming event “Future EU Space Programme and satellite connectivity opportunities for Africa: added value of the IRIS² programme for local stakeholders” will help to step up the Africa-EU partnership in space by setting the ground for the commercial prospects that IRIS² and its cutting-edge technologies would bring to African citizens, businesses and public sector users.