Starlink in talks with two Philippine telcos over satellite internet

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SEOUL, South Korea — Elon Musk’s Starlink is in talks with two Philippine telcos to launch its satellite internet services next year in an archipelagic country with slow speeds and poor connectivity.

The two telcos are satellite broadband provider Transpacific Broadband Group International Inc. (TBGI) and fiber-optic broadband operator Converge ICT Solutions Inc., according to Bloomberg

TBGI hopes to provide local government units, businesses, and households with “advanced satellite internet services to meet their growing requirements for fast and reliable connectivity” from 2022, with its board of directors approving the plan to pursue discussions with Starlink, CNN Philippines reported, citing TBGI’s filing to the local bourse.

“LEOSAT [Low Earth orbit satellite] technology offers a unique combination of affordability, speed, flexibility, ease-of-setup and a 27-millisecond low-latency bandwidth to deliver a superior online experience in the next-level internet-of-things,” the company said in the filing, according to CNN. 

Jump-starting this plan, TBGI signed a three-year managed service agreement with Hong Kong-based satellite operator ABS Oct. 27 for the “development and maintenance of multiple state-of-the-art earth stations in strategic areas nationwide specifically for LEOSAT connectivity,” CNN reported. 

Starlink’s debut in the Philippines requires local partners with legislative franchises and infrastructure, including ground stations, according to Inquirer, a local internet news provider. 

Meanwhile, fiber-optic broadband operator Converge ICT Solutions Inc. is talking to several satellite providers including SpaceX to complement its internet network, according to Bloomberg, citing the company’s CEO Dennis Anthony Uy.

“We would like to utilize low-orbit satellite technology to bridge the gap in areas that are unreachable with fiber optic cables so that we can provide quality broadband connectivity to the majority of our people,” Bloomberg quoted Uy as saying.

The Philippines ranks 72nd in the world for mobile internet speed and 64th in terms of fixed broadband, according to the Speedtest Global Index. The country’s internet penetration rate is 67%, leaving large portions of the population without access to online services, data from the Digital 2021 Philippine Report showed.