Phl Internet gap and Starlink

June 15, 2022

Recently, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) approved the registration of Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc. (Starlink), a local subsidiary of Starlink owned by visionary billionaire Elon Musk.

As of 2022, DataReportal.com said there are around 76 million Internet users in the Philippines, representing 68 percent of Internet penetration rate.

The existing facilities being used by local telecommunications companies have been slow in expanding given the inconsistent relationship they have with local government units and communities that complain about towers being built near residential areas.

So, how is Starlink different from other Internet service providers, which spend on physical infrastructure and maintenance to continuously service clients through fiber-optic, broadband, Digital Subscriber Line, and 5G/4G/3G connection?

According to Starlink.com, “Starlink Internet works by sending information through the vacuum of space, where it travels much faster than in fiber-optic cable and can reach far more people and places.

While most satellite Internet services today come from single geostationary satellites that orbit the planet at about 35,000 km, Starlink is a constellation of multiple satellites that orbit the planet much closer to Earth, at about 550 kilometers and cover the entire globe.

Because Starlink satellites are in a low orbit, the round-trip data time between the user and the satellite — also known as latency — is much lower than with satellites in geostationary orbit. This enables Starlink to deliver services like online gaming that are usually not possible on other satellite broadband systems.”

If I’m not mistaken, we will be the first Southeast Asian country where Starlink will be operational, and speeds of around 200 Megabits per second (MBPS) are projected.

Before we get excited though, I tried researching if the promised targets and speeds can be reached.

An article on Techtarget.com last 2 May, which interviewed customers in the United States using Starlink said that there was a noticeable degradation as more clients avail of their services. The article also said data transmission rate went as low as 30 to 50 MBPS during the day, including uploads of as low as 12 MBPS.

Despite this, the destruction of Internet cartels in the Philippines will allow more Filipinos to go online and create more opportunities for livelihood and employment, especially in areas where there are security and political concerns and terrain complications for infra development.

Even during disasters, Starlink satellites can provide much-needed help in communications. I remember the last super typhoon which hit Cebu made some residents even in urban areas unreachable due to the absence of Internet signals.

The gap in Philippine Internet services will be a challenge to the incoming Marcos administration, but the entry of more players like Starlink, which provides advanced systems in services, is a promising step toward a 100 percent Internet penetration rate nationwide.