Jumpstarting last-mile internet access – Manila Bulletin

With the imminent entry of billionaire Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite broadband service in the Philippines, the aspiration of rural Filipinos for internet access will soon be a reality.

Department of Information and Communications (DICT) Secretary-designate Ivan John Uy said he has gotten “very clear marching orders” from President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to improve digital connectivity and increase internet speed, especially in the country’s remote communities.

The incoming DICT chief gave importance to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), the high-speed satellite internet venture of Musk, the world’s richest man according to Forbes magazine. SpaceX developed the low-earth orbit satellite system of Starlink to offer broadband technology that can reach far-flung islands.

Uy is eagerly anticipating the arrival of satellite receivers that will be deployed across the regions. Target areas are those that are not served by the traditional telcos due to the high costs of building fiber optic and cable infrastructure in sparsely-populated barangays.

Recently, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) approved the registration of Starlink Internet Philippines Inc. as a value-added services (VAS) provider, which allows the company to directly access satellite systems and operate broadband facilities to offer internet services in the country.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba explained that the swift processing of Starlink’s VAS registration was meant to expedite the immediate rollout of this high-speed service that promises to deliver up to 200 megabits per second (Mbps) using advanced satellites in low orbit. Currently the Philippines has one of the slowest internet speed in Asia at an average of 18.88 Mbps for mobile connection and 46.44 Mbps for fixed intermet connection.

Last month, outgoing DICT Secretary Manny Caintic issued a certificate of accreditation to the Philippine subsidiary of SpaceX as a satellite systems provider and operator or SSPO. “In light of Republic Act (RA) 11647 that opens up our gates to more foreign players, SSPO accreditation is an acknowledgement from us that you are allowed to do business in the country. DICT continues to provide an enabling environment especially for new players such as Starlink,” Caintic emphasized.

Listed company DFNN Inc., through its Executive Chairman Ramon Garcia Jr., paved the way for Starlink’s debut in Southeast Asia by linking up SpaceX executives Rebecca Hunter and Ryan Goodnight with various Philippine government officials.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, Senator Koko Pimentel delivered a privilege speech regarding new technologies that could be used to alleviate the effects of the public health and economic crises on the daily life of Filipinos. This eventually led to the passage of RA 11647 or the amended Public Service Act sponsored by Senator Grace Poe and Congresswoman Sharon Garin in the upper and lower chambers of Congress, respectively.

SpaceX legal counsel Bien Marquez of Quisumbing Torres law firm lauded the regulators for the swift approval of Starlink’s licenses to operate in the country. In this sense, the Philippines even beat Japan, which is still in talks with SpaceX about launching the satellite service.

Will we finally experience fast internet connectivity when Starlink begins to cover urban and suburban areas as well as the countryside?

J. Albert Gamboa is a Life Member of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He is the Chairman of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee and the Editor-in-Chief of FINEX Digest. The opinion expressed herein does not necessarily reflect the views of these institutions and the Manila Bulletin. #FinexPhils  www.finex.org.ph





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