BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has reached a deal on a 6-billion-euro ($6.2 billion) satellite internet system, driven by the bloc's push to boost its own space and communications sectors and ensure security by cutting its reliance on foreign suppliers,
Representatives from the European Parliament and the European Council, the grouping of 27 EU countries, agreed to a deal on Thursday.
The European Commission announced the initiative to build and operate a satellite internet system in February.
The EU scheme comes amid growing concerns about Russian and Chinese military advances in outer space and a surge in satellite launches.
Having its own satellite internet system could help the bloc speed up the rollout of broadband internet in Europe while it would also cover Africa, allowing the EU to offer countries there an alternative to Chinese competitors
A space-based network could back up terrestrial networks in the event of major outages or disasters, and offer connections in places not covered by traditional service providers.
The Commission wants to divert 2.4 billion euros from various EU programmes and use unspent money from other EU projects, while the private sector is expected to stump up the remaining 3.6 billion euros.
Initial development and satellite deployment could start next year, leading to a full services with high-level encription called quantum cryptography in 2028.
The proposed satellite internet system could lead to the construction and launch of up to 170 low orbit satellites between 2025 and 2027.
($1 = 0.9665 euros)
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)