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Business

Smart eyes LEO satellites for 5G

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — As Elon Musk’s internet from space Starlink nears its entry in the Philippine market, PLDT Inc.’s wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc. has tapped a Washington-based firm to explore the use of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites for 5G services.

PLDT head of technology strategy and transformation office Arvin Siena yesterday said it signed a partnership with Omnispace to explore space-based 5G communications using LEO satellites.

Siena said Smart and Omnispace would look into the use cases that they can work on together.

Among these, the two firms plan to establish or improve 5G connectivity in far-flung areas. They also want to capitalize on the Internet of Things to monitor weather disturbances and natural calamities, and in boosting network coverage for disaster response.

“This collaboration with Omnispace allows our companies to work together to define use cases for the Philippine market. This is also part of PLDT’s broader initiatives to future-proof services, including Smart’s 5G,” Siena said.

“This includes exploring opportunities to team up with companies such as Omnispace to test the interoperability of our network with their 3GPP-compliant 5G non-terrestrial network, which then supports the 5G ecosystem of the future,” he said.

3GPP, short for the Third Generation Partnership Project, refers to the joint effort of international organizations to modernize the standards on mobile technologies.

In May, Omnispace completed the deployment phase of Omnispace Spark that seeks to develop a LEO constellation and deliver the world’s first 5G satellite network.

Omnispace hopes to soon interconnect its LEO satellites with land-based mobile networks to the benefit of mobile subscribers hooked up to its two gigahertz spectrum allocation. In the long run, the Omnispace Spark is expected to bring 5G connectivity to billions of devices worldwide.

Brian Pemberton, vice president for sales and marketing at Omnispace, said the firm partnered with Smart to bridge the digital gap here, especially in remote areas. Relying on the capabilities of the two parties, the collaboration eyes to provide communities with the connectivity they need to improve their local economy.

The tie-up between Smart and Omnispace comes at a time when internet from space specialist Starlink, owned by Musk’s SpaceX, closes in on its entry in the Philippine market.

Starlink’s broadband system that can extend a download speed of up to 200 Mbps is scheduled to be offered in the country by December.

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