Russia limits operations of foreign communications satellite operators

The Kremlin will require foreign satellite operators to go through an approval process and build local ground stations.

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This week, the Russian government has published a document outlining new rules that limit foreign communications satellite operators inside the country.

According to a copy of the document, the Russian government will require all foreign communications satellite companies to pass all incoming traffic through a ground gateway station.

This means satellite operators won't be able to beam communications directly to customers without going through a ground station first.

The Russian government cited an espionage threat of allowing foreign satellite companies to transmit data directly within the country's border. Critics of the Kremlin regime say the new requirement will enable Russian government agencies to intercept any incoming traffic.

The new rules, set to enter into effect in six months, will also force all foreign communications satellite companies to obtain a permit from Russian authorities even before operating in the country.

The Russian Defense Ministry, the Federal Security Service (FSB), and Federal Protective Service (FSO) will be in charge of reviewing applicants.

According to Russian news agency RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK), which first broke the story in local media, this review process can take more than a year, the paper said citing telecom industry insiders.

The same sources also said the new law greatly inhibits foreign operators from entering the Russian market, mainly because of the cost of building a ground station, which can go up to tens of millions of US dollars.

Foreign communications satellite operators such as Globalstar, Inmarsat, Iridium, and Thuraya are less impacted by the new rules since they're already operating ground stations in Russia and have obtained permission from government agencies.

However, RBK sources claim new companies will have a hard time entering the market mainly because of tensions on the Russian political scene where foreign companies are now viewed with distrust and are always under suspicion that they might be facilitating espionage operations for other countries.

Just last month, the Russian government announced plans to disconnect the country from the global internet as part of a test of its internal DNS system, which Kremlin has been trying to build and launch since 2014.

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