Starlink Philippines
Starlink terminals in rural Philippines, where only seven out of every 100 people have fixed broadband subscriptions, lagging behind regional peers like Singapore. Image Credit: Jay Hilotin | Gulf News

Manila: The Philippines wants to harness commercial satellite constellations to boost internet connectivity in the geographically dispersed country, a lawmaker has revealed.

Starlink has already reponded by making a limited-time offer for customers, rolling out a 33 per cent off on hardware, from 28,000 pesos ($498) to around 18,000 pesos ($320).

Senator Win Gatchalian said the legislation will propel satellite-based broadband links in the Asian country, by further encouraging and promoting the solution, by harmonising — and updating — the country's archaic telecom laws.

Gatchalian filed Senate Bill No. 814, known as the "Satellite-based Technologies for Internet Connectivity Act" for this purpose, saying the country, with more than 7,640 isands, is a terrestrially challenging area for wired broadband links.

By the numbers
• 52.15 Mbps: average download speed for fixed broadband connections (Q1 2022), vs global average of 113,25 Mbps (as of September 2021).

• 93rd: Global rank of the Philippines in terms of mobile data speed

• 60th: Rank of Phiippines in terms of fixed broadband connection speed (Q1, 2022)

[Ookla Speedtest Global Index Report]

The Manila-based lawmaker said the legislation seeks to leverage satellite tech to enhance broadband links in underserved regions.

"Currently, the country's broadbad infrastructure is severely lacking. Some residents live on islands or in the mountains, with low population density and limited access to electricity, which are harder and more expensive to rearch, making them commercially unattractive for traditional telecom operators," the Senator stated in the bill's explanatory note.

Universal internet access

The bill aims to ensure universal internet access, particularly in critical sectors such as e-government, education, healthcare, and disaster preparedness and response. In the Philippines, only seven out of every 100 people have fixed broadband subscriptions, lagging behind regional peers like Singapore.

Under Executive Order No. 127 (2021), telecommunications companies, value-added service (VAS) providers and internet service providers registered with the National Telecommunications Commision to have direct access to all satellite systems to build and operate broadband facilities to offer internet services.

But the order is unclear on the mandate of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT and the NTC. SB No. 814 seeks to plug that gap, Gatchalian sated 

Starlink Philippines
Starlink, which rolled out its service across the Philippines in 2023, plans launch up to 42,000 low-earth orbit (LEOs) satellites to cover the entire planet with cell sites in space. UK-based satellite company OneWeb, partnering with Manila-based NOW Telecom, seeks to enter the Philippine market too, and targets sectors like government, aviation, and healthcare. While no OneWeb rates have been published yet, Starlink recently cut its price by nearly $200 for its basic subscriber kit.

Despite improvements in the technology and cost going down, he cited the persisting inadequacy of internet access in the country, hindering economic progress, especially in rural areas.

Transformative impact

He emphasised the effect of internet connectivity on education, business, communication, and financial management.

Gatchalian underscored the government's responsibility to prioritise internet access for all citizens, advocating for the expansion of satellite-based broadband solutions.

Besides building clarity over policy and jurisdictions, the proposed legislation also seeks to spur investments in the ICT sector, expand the existing digital infrastructure and building a resilient and high-speed communications network.

The ultimate aim: to enable all communities, including those in the remote islands, to have access to e-government and basic services, education, health trade, finance, disaster preparedness and security.

100% foreign ownership

Earlier, Filipino legislators have enacted a new law allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership of key industries, including telecommunications.

Section 4 of the proposed bills seeks to give additional mandate to the DICT to expand access to satellite-based technologies "as an alternative connectivity solution to ensure universal access tot he internet".

Specifically, it gives the DICT regulatory and administrative jurisdiction over internet service provicers (ISP) and satellite policies, adopt a faster process for the registration of ISPs both local and foreign, and transfer jurisdicition from the National Telecommunications Commision to DICT.

It also seeks to create a coherent spectrum management policy, including radio frequency (RF) spectrum for satellite systems, which could be vulnerable to "jamming".


Intentional RF interference, commonly known as "jamming", disrupts satellite operations temporarily or reversibly, avoiding satellite destruction and debris creation. Achieved with minimal resources like antennas and transmitters, "jamming" serves various purposes, such as blocking unwanted broadcasts, blocking satellite navigation signals or hindering tracking, and impairing the ability of an adversary to use precision munitions.

Starlink, a satellite-based technology developed by Space X, already operates in the Asian country.

Starlink grapples with affordability issues, requiring customers to pay a significant upfront fee Php28,000 ($526)  for the equipment (satellite receiver and router) alongside a monthly subscription (Php2,700 ($48.12), deterring widespread adoption compared to cheaper fiber plans.

Elon Musk's company recently cut the price of its Starlink kit from Php28,000 to Php18,000, on a "limited-time" offer. Despite limited household uptake, businesses and government entities, particularly outside major cities, show interest in satellite communication.

Competitor OneWeb, partnering with NOW Telecom, targets sectors like government, aviation, and healthcare in a bid to capture market share. Meanwhile, fiber internet gains momentum in a country traditionally reliant on mobile connectivity.

Still Gatchalian laments that internet access in the Philippines remains "inadequate" even after 30 years of internet connectivity.

One challenge (or opportunity) in reaching a higher internet penetration rate is that the Philippines, home to more than 110 million, is not really a small country.

The northern mainland of Luzon alone (109,965 km²), is almost as big as Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands put together, while the land area of southern island of Mindanao (97,530 km²) is thrice bigger than Belgium's.

The status of Philippine Senate Bill No. 814 in the 24-member chamber remains unclear at the moment.