Here we have a lovely example of the political system not even asking the right question let alone coming up with the right answer.
For the question being asked is, now we’ll not be – most likely anyway – a part of the EU’s Galileo satellite system which other satellite system must we buy into? Then everyone’s going off and shouting about whether it should be OneWeb, or perhaps Musk, or Inmarsat, or, well, whoever and whatever:
The UK government’s plan to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in a satellite broadband company has been described as “nonsensical” by experts, who say the company doesn’t even make the right type of satellite the country needs after Brexit.
The investment in OneWeb, first reported on Thursday night, is intended to mitigate against the UK losing access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system.
But OneWeb – in which the UK will own a 20% stake following the investment – currently operates a completely different type of satellite network from that typically used to run such navigation systems.
“The fundamental starting point is, yes, we’ve bought the wrong satellites,” said Dr Bleddyn Bowen, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester. “OneWeb is working on basically the same idea as Elon Musk’s Starlink: a mega-constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, which are used to connect people on the ground to the internet.
The actual answer is that we don’t need to buy into anyone’s system at all. Just as we shouldn’t have into Galileo in the first place.
For, d’ye see, GPS is a public good. The US allows anyone to use the signals. Not that they can really stop people doing so either. Not unless they take the whole system down.
So, there’s the US system, free for all to use. A global public good – this means it doesn’t matter who provides it, it is there. It also means we don’t need our own. Which, in turn, means we don’t and didn’t need the Galileo system, let alone another one after we’ve left that.
As I said, politics not even asking the right question. They’re asking “which new system should we have?” when the correct questions is “why do we need a new system?” and given that the answer to the second is we don’t therefore the first is entirely moot.