Elon Musk's SpaceX to bring Starlink to Philippines

Ramon Royandoyan - Philstar.com
Elon Musk's SpaceX to bring Starlink to Philippines
Elon Musk gestures as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on February 10, 2022. Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk delivered an eagerly-awaited update on SpaceX's Starship, a prototype rocket the company is developing for crewed interplanetary exploration.

MANILA, Philippines — SpaceX, the aerospace company of eccentric billionaire and world’s richest man Elon Musk, is set to enter the Philippines, the government announced Thursday.

This could propel the country as the first in Southeast Asia to access SpaceX's low earth orbit satellite network constellation called “Starlink”, the Department of Trade and Industry said Thursday. Starlink is comprised of over 1,600 satellites.  

“Preparations are underway for their registration,” the DTI said in a statement. “At present, their application is being processed and the locations of their gateways are being visited.”

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said SpaceX’s entry would give better internet speeds and connectivity in the country, which is notorious for its poor telecommunications especially in remote parts of the archipelago. The company is currently establishing a local Filipino entity that will be their wholly-owned subsidiary and is targeting to deploy three gateways in the first phase of their launch, he added.

“Their system will augment, as well as complement existing broadband capacities. This will further capacitate micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), facilitate online learning, e-commerce, and fintech," Lopez said.

The aerospace company is optimistic about the country's growing consumer base, according to DTI, adding that the signing of the amended Public Service Act was crucial in SpaceX’s decision to enter the local market. The new law now allows full foreign ownership in key industries in the country, including telcos, in a bid to encourage competition and corner more foreign investments.

For Terry Ridon, convenor at public policy think tank Infrawatch, the satellite broadband service's entry to the Philippines will keep competitors on their toes.

"Most certainly, this will be a gamechanger in the country’s internet landscape, with various providers competing for customers through mobile and fixed-line internet. SpaceX will have to compete with the local providers on price, speed and reliability of service, as SpaceX customers will have to pay at least $710 upfront for their service, against the lower barriers to entry for mobile and fixed-line internet services," Ridon said in a text message.

"This should however be taken as a challenge by local ISPs to improve their current level of service and provide better value for the prices charged to customers," Ridon added.

Talks between the government and SpaceX began after a US Investment Mission in November last year. This was followed by a slew of online meetings that became more frequent in early March after the signing of amendments to the PSA.

"Starlink's entry into the Philippines sends a positive message to the world: The Philippines is open for business and there's a sustainable growing demand here for better and alternative ways to connect to the Internet," Grace Mirandilla-Santos, independent ICT policy analyst and lead advocate of Better Internet PH, said.

"It's critical for the government to show that the various reforms it put in place are accompanied by equivalent changes in licensing and regulation that are consistent with the reforms intended by these landmark and innovative policies," Mirandilla-Santos added.

SpaceX's Starlink made headlines in the past weeks after sending a shipment of terminals to Ukraine in the face of Russia's invasion of its neighbor. — with a report from AFP

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