GOVSATCOM, the EU secure satcom service hub

GOVSATCOM, the EU secure satcom service hub

When disaster strikes, having ready access to communications services is critical to emergency response and mitigation efforts. But what happens when a disaster, such as an earthquake, causes terrestrial networks to collapse, effectively shutting down communications within the disaster area? Or when the crisis area is located in the sea and there are limited or non-existent terrestrial communications networks?

For this, there’s GOVSATCOM.

The European Union Governmental Satellite Communications (GOVSATCOM) programme, launched by the European Commission, aims to provide secure and cost-efficient communications capabilities to security and safety for critical missions and operations managed by the EU and its Member States, including national security actors and EU Agencies and institutions.

“GOVSATCOM is the EU’s tool for providing robust, secure and highly available satellite communications to governmental users,” says EUSPA GOVSATCOM programme manager Dr Georgios Synnefakis, who was a recent guest on Spacewatch Europe’s Space Café podcast.  

By pooling the services, capacities and resources of government and commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) providers, GOVSATCOM will serve as a one stop secure SatCom shop for authorised governmental users. “In this sense, the programme gives users access to the best-of-the-best of European satellite communication services,” explains Synnefakis.   

GOVSATCOM will also provide access to the EU’s IRIS2 programme. The new constellation is set to provide secure governmental communication services to the EU and its Member States, as well as broadband connectivity for European citizens and private companies.    

For fire brigades, police, military, coast guard and other authorised users, this pooling of services means they won’t need to find and book secure SatCom services directly from the service providers – a cumbersome and time-consuming process that can significantly delay emergency response efforts. Furthermore, by always having some SatCom services reserved for EU Member States, GOVSATCOM eliminates the risk of commercial services being unavailable. 

Read more: Unlocking the future with secure SatCom

“The programme is designed to make it easy – and fast – for users to review, select and use the services they need when and where they need them,” adds Synnefakis.  

Another key advantage, especially for those users unfamiliar with secure satellite communications, is that GOVSATCOM can help them select the right services for a specific need.

Linking secure SatCom suppliers to authorised government user needs

In line with its mission of linking space to user needs, EUSPA has played an instrumental role in surveying governmental users, understanding their secure SatCom needs, and defining a GOVSATCOM service provision scheme that meets those needs. 

With the programme now in the implementation phase, EUSPA is responsible for procuring the GOVSATCOM Hub, the programme’s secure operational ground segment. It is also responsible for the Hub’s operations and the coordination of the user-related aspects of the programme, all in close collaboration with the European Commission, the Member States and other involved entities. 

“The Hub is the heart of the GOVSATCOM ecosystem, linking the programme’s pool of SatCom services with authorised government users,” remarks Synnefakis. 

While GOVSATCOM’s users may be governments, its beneficiary is Europe. For instance, in addition to its use during natural disasters, natural and man made crisis, the service will play an important role in securing critical infrastructure like dams and air traffic control. It can also be used to support such governmental operations as border monitoring, especially in remote areas that lack terrestrial connectivity. 

“By helping governments mitigate – even prevent – disasters and other emergencies, GOVSATCOM ensures the safety, security and wellbeing of all EU citizens,” concludes Synnefakis. 

GOVSATCOM initial services are expected to be launched in 2024, with full operational capability to follow by 2027.   

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