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All ultra-broadband tensions between Starlink and Tim

All ultra-broadband tensions between Starlink and Tim

What Minister Urso and Tim say about Starlink complaints. Facts and insights

Starlink, SpaceX's gigantic ever-growing broadband constellation, attacks Tim in Italy.

The satellite internet division of SpaceX, Elon Musk's aerospace company, claims that the introduction of fast internet in Italy is being hindered by the country's largest telephone operator with possible repercussions for services in southern Europe and northern Africa.

Bloomberg reported this, citing a complaint presented by Starlink to the Ministry of Business and Made in Italy (Mimit) headed by Adolfo Urso, in which Musk's company states that Telecom Italia for months did not comply with the regulations requiring the sharing of data of the spectrum to avoid frequency interference. SpaceX also filed a similar complaint with Agcom, the state telecommunications regulatory authority, Bloomberg notes.

A spokesperson for Tim rejected this "partial reconstruction of the facts which does not take into account the discussions still underway". According to Starlink documentation seen by the news agency, the initial request for the data dates back to mid-October.

As reported by Startmag , in December Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Musk's approach to bring the Starlink satellite service to Italy and include it in ultra-broadband projects, to integrate the coverage of Open Fiber and Tim. A "very complicated" attempt, the newspaper specified, while tensions also flared up due to an internal Tim document which refers to the use of the Startlink service by the Russian military.

In the meantime, the department headed by Urso has offered itself as an intermediary between the two actors in order to "identify a better solution that can guarantee the national interest".

All the details.


In a complaint filed late last week with Agcom and Mimit, Starlink claims that Tim for months did not comply with the rules requiring it to share spectrum data to avoid frequency interference with its equipment, Bloomberg reports.

The lack of data access was severely slowing the rollout of Starlink's new proprietary gateway equipment. Unlike other operators, Telecom Italia "clearly informed Starlink that it did not want to coordinate" and did not share the necessary data, the document states. According to the report, this could also cause service disruptions in parts of southern Europe and North Africa that are partially powered by equipment located in Italy.


Furthermore, Starlink urged the ministry headed by Urso to push Tim to do everything necessary to cooperate on frequencies. As Repubblica summarizes, “Musk's group's internet service is based on a constellation of satellites positioned at around 550 kilometers above sea level. The devices send their signal to subscribers along a frequency band called "Ku". This same signal also reaches earth hubs, which are called gateways and are real access doors. In this case Starlink uses the “Ka” frequency. Musk's satellites and his gateways located in Italy constantly communicate with each other. This web of communications works as long as it does not interfere with the communications carried out by traditional internet operators, starting with Tim. Starlink therefore asked Tim for the information necessary to coordinate its signal with his."

Therefore, if the situation remained unresolved, Starlink would be forced to move investments from Italy to other European countries, Musk's company warns.

As already mentioned, the meetings between the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Business and SpaceX, Elon Musk's aerospace company, date back to the end of 2023 regarding Starlink's participation in projects for the diffusion of ultra-broadband in Italy.


In a subsequent response, the former Telecom Italia said it would deny access, arguing that Starlink should not be allowed on certain frequencies (in this case 28Ghz) for technical reasons, according to the document seen by Bloomberg .

According to industrial sources, it is up to Mimit to identify a third party to establish the allocation of frequencies and the rules on use.

While insiders observe that Tim is in fact making the institutions aware that Starlink is asking to use Tim radio links which are strategic assets and therefore the peremptory request arrived via a second certified email in which Starlink would have asked to have the coordinates has not received a response from group headed by the CEO, Pietro Labriola, waiting for the institutions and authorities to define the regulatory framework which is also valid today for operators like Eolo.


To date, SpaceX has more than 5,500 Starlink satellites in orbit, which manage to bring ultra-broadband at very low latency practically everywhere. These satellites guarantee global internet access regardless of terrestrial connections. To connect, people need a specific Starlink terminal, a sort of router that receives data sent by satellites, different from traditional signals from ground stations.

The service already has around 2.6 million customers and the company recently launched a new economical Starlink subscription in Italy , at a price of 29 euros per month, in addition to the standard one of 40 euros per month. A move to win over more users… and more. “With 40 it offers connection speeds that are almost competitive with Tim's optical fibre” underlines Repubblica . A direct challenge to the main Italian telecommunications operator?


Space, with low orbit satellites, is a resource for bridging the digital divide that still afflicts Italy and the rest of the world. But the role of satellites, according to experts, will be complementary and not a replacement for the current fixed and mobile networks.

“A threat to traditional telecom operators? Not entirely, because satellite operators like Starlink need access to frequency bands to launch their satellites. They undoubtedly need to create partnerships with telecom operators to access their frequency bands, which are the preserve of telcos. So, to launch this service, Starlink cannot bypass the “telcos”: it must be able to use their frequencies and must get the green light from local telecommunications regulators. In Italy by Agcom and apparently discussions in this sense are already underway to replicate in Italy what has already happened, in terms of agreements, in other countries" explained Key4biz at the beginning of the year.


Therefore, since last October, Starlink has started discussions with Tim to integrate its gateways which should rely on Tim's radio links which represent strategic assets.

“The fact could be an opportunity for Agcom to open an investigation into Starlink to verify user protection, or technical transparency, tariff quality indicators, contractual transparency, privacy on how they process data, anti-piracy anti-fraud filters. Will antitrust arrive first as in the Dazn case?” Dario Denni, founder of Europio Consulting, commented on Linkedin.

Also on Linkedin Raffaele Barberio, president at Barberio & Partners srl and former director of Key4biz : “Starlink is not even among the telecommunications operators. He can't claim anything. It's just a joke. He will take it out on Italy, where everything is difficult and not much is achieved. Which is partly true, so much so that we are very good at scaring away all foreign investors. Including Musk.”

In reality, in the public list of communication operators on the Agcom website, Starlink is among those registered since 24 September 2021 with "Electronic communication service" activities.


Meanwhile, the statement from the Minister of Business and Made in Italy on the issue arrived today.

“The ministry immediately takes part in a discussion and coordination table between Tim and Starlink to find a solution that can allow the best coexistence of the two technologies, as required by law” said the minister Adolfo Urso, on the sidelines of the presentation of the National Day of Made in Italy, after yesterday Elon Musk complained about "slowdowns" to his business by Tim. “We will be the actors in this discussion table in the assumption which, moreover, we have already attributed for a few weeks to the preparatory work carried out by the Bordoni and House foundation to the ministry” added the minister.

For Urso himself "we must guarantee the parties and therefore Tim, the data and information it possesses, and at the same time allow actors like Starlink and others to use this new technology for the benefit of everyone. The ministry – he concluded – will be a protagonist in the mediation and discussion between the actors and in identifying a better solution that can guarantee the national interest”.


For its part, Tim reiterates that "it has already provided the feedback due to Starlink and, in response to further requests for data, including sensitive data and relevant for the security of communications, confirms its willingness to dialogue with Starlink through the mediation provided by Mimit".


What is certain is that the evolution of this dispute will have repercussions in a sector that will soon be crowded: other satellite constellations are planned by OneWeb and Amazon with the Kuiper project, while the European Union is preparing to launch the Iris2 system in starting from 2027.

The European satellite constellation system for telecommunications will compete with Elon Musk's Starlink system, according to Franco Ongaro, Leonardo's chief space business officer. At the beginning of last month, Minister Urso announced that the control center for the new constellation of European Iris2 satellites for Internet connections.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/innovazione/tutte-le-tensioni-a-banda-ultralarga-fra-starlink-e-tim/ on Tue, 02 Apr 2024 12:15:48 +0000.