The Philippine’s National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has given a green light to Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc. (Starlink), a subsidiary of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, on Friday (May 27).
The regulatory approval — given in record 30 minutes following the filing of application papers — covers the construction and operation of telecommunications value-added service facilities, according to the official news agency.
The low-latency, broadband internet system promises download speeds of between 100-200 Mbps, matching existing home fibre networks.
Subscribers are provided a small dish that communicates directly with satellites in low-Earth orbit. Starlink’s service is expected to go live before June 30, 2022, according to a senior government official.
Starlink currently has 400,000 subscribers across 36 countries. Many have tried to use the service in motion.
First in south-east Asia
The move allows Starlink to register as a Philippine business entity, the first such service to operate in South-East Asia.
This allows Musk’s company to link the country of 110 million people with the rest of the world via satellite-based broadband web service for $110 per month (after paying $599 for a "starter kit").
> Anyone who put down a deposit for the original $499 kit will have to pay $549 instead.
> It’s not immediately clear if the higher rates now also apply to the Philippines.
Gamaliel Cordoba, the NTC Commissioner, stated Friday Starlink has been approved as a "value-added service” (VAS) provider.
This allows customers in the country — which theoretically covers its 7,641 islands — to have direct access to the world, thus bypassing local service providers.
Speeding up rollout
This is a much-awaited move. A number of Filipino subscribers have already signed up for Starlink services as early-movers even before the company obtained a licence.
It is understood that Starlink Philippines will be fully-owned by Musk’s US-based entity.
“The NTC is steadfast in helping ensure that roll-out of Starlink’s internet access services will be done expeditiously and professionally,” Cordoba said.
Starlink is the next-generation constellation system using thousands of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to bring broadband services to remote areas.
It offers “low-latency”, and high bandwidth — which translates to higher speeds and less interference, compared to terrestrial-based communication system, which can be knocked down by bad weather.
The Philippines, west of the Pacific "ring of fire", is visited by several typhoons a year.
The move could be an equaliser for the archipelagic country — as video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other “high data” activities that were previously difficult with regular terrestrial-based internet would now be available in remote areas of the country.
“Starlink is expected to cover villages in urban and suburban areas and rural areas that remain unserved or underserved with internet access services. The service is expected to bring cost-effective internet access in these areas,” the official told the Philippine News Agency.
Approved in 30 minutes
SpaceX's lawyer, Bien Marquez lauded the NTC for its “prompt action,” citing that Starlink’s VAS license was issued 30 minutes after their submission of registration and complete requirements.
“This shows the government’s seriousness in addressing the connectivity needs of our country in unserved and underserved areas. This will also prepare us in the event of natural disasters and calamities,” Marquez told Philippine media Friday.
In Brazil, 19,000 rural schools has been contacted to the world with high-speed internet by Starlink. The service is also being used environmental monitoring of Amazon.
Ramon Lopez, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary, earlier said that Starlink will jumpstart its operations before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term on June 30, 2022.