Mobile network blocking Starlink rollout — SpaceX

Elon Musk’s Starlink is claiming that its rollout of high-speed internet in Italy is being obstructed by the country’s largest phone carrier, with possible repercussions for its services across southern Europe and northern Africa.

In a complaint filed to Italy’s communications watchdog and the Industry Ministry late last week, Starlink claims that Telecom Italia SpA has for months failed to comply with regulations requiring it to share spectrum data in order to avoid frequency interferences with its equipment, a document seen by Bloomberg shows.

Telecom Italia rejected what it described as a partial reconstruction of facts that doesn’t take into account ongoing discussions.

A Telecom Italia Capital bond due in November 2033 fell 1.2 cents on the dollar to 92.6 cents on Monday, heading for the biggest decline since Oct. 3, prices compiled by Bloomberg showed.

The lack of access to the data was severely slowing the deployment of new gateway equipment owned by Starlink, a satellite internet provider controlled by Musk’s SpaceX, the document says.

In contrast to other carriers, Telecom Italia “has clearly informed Starlink that it doesn’t want to coordinate,” and it hasn’t shared necessary data, the document states.

That could also cause service outages in parts of southern Europe and north Africa that are partially powered by equipment located in Italy, according to the document.

Starlink also urged Italy’s Industry Ministry to push Telecom Italia to do whatever it takes to cooperate on frequencies.

Starlink would be forced to shift investments from Italy to other European countries if the situation remains unresolved, the document said.

The initial request for the data dates back to mid-October, Starlink said in a previous document.

In a subsequent reply, Telecom Italia said it would deny access, claiming that Starlink shouldn’t be allowed on certain frequencies for technical reasons, according to that document.

Representatives for Italy’s communications authority Agcom and for the Industry Ministry declined to comment.

A SpaceX representative also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Satellite Network

Starlink delivers broadband Internet beamed down from a network of roughly 5,500 satellites that SpaceX started deploying in 2019.

Telecom Italia has been hamstrung for decades by a complex mix of high labour costs and ever-higher investments to keep its network infrastructure up to date.

Last year the carrier sold its landline network, its most valuable asset, to US private equity firm KKR & Co., in a deal valued at about €19 billion ($20.6 billion) plus earn-outs.

With some 2.6 million customers already, Starlink has the potential to become a major moneymaker for SpaceX, a company that began as a Musk vehicle for fulfilling his dreams of exploring space.

It has now become the most important private-sector contractor to the US government’s space program and a dominant force in national security.

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Mobile network blocking Starlink rollout — SpaceX