After Starlink, more satellite internet companies see PH as a battlefield

Following the entry of Elon Musk’s Starlink in the Philippines, more companies are looking forward to offering satellite-enabled internet services as the country progresses into the era of digitization.

With the launch of six of its 11 satellites named O3b mPower this year, Luxembourg-based connectivity solutions company SES will also expand its footprint to the Philippines. Rob Marabut, SES director for business development network, said the company aims to bring this internet service to Filipinos by 2023.

Marabut said the satellites could “support a massive increase in 4G and 5G cellular deployments in remote areas” and deliver internet at speeds of 1 gigabyte per second anywhere in the country.

“Our access to the Internet is much faster. And also if you use a mobile phone on a satellite network, the quality is also much better,” he said.

Marabut said SES was looking to partner with local service providers and operators to help them with regulatory requirements.

Local tech startup Quicksilver Satcom Ventures also expressed interest in increasing Internet penetration in underserved segments via satellite technology in a statement on Wednesday.

While satellite-based internet can help solve typical problems arising from fiber or wire-based services, affordability can be an issue.

Quicksilver, funded by the Ignite Impact Fund, aims to partner with local government agencies and private clients to establish service areas and aid economic development.

“Quicksilver’s goals to provide not only free and accessible, but also consistent and reliable Internet connections are a major contributor to alleviating poverty among the poorest Filipinos,” added Maoi Arroyo, co-founder of Ignite.

Jose del Rosario, research director of satellite and space consultancy Northern Sky Research, said at a briefing Wednesday that satellites can bridge the digital divide as they can reach distant regions where current infrastructure cannot.

“What the pandemic has done is it has enabled us to reach a level of use beyond 2019 levels and… it [is still showing a] growth trajectory,” he says.

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