Game changer: Starlink’s low earth orbit satellite network to bridge digital divide in the Philippines

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said the entry of billionaire Elon Musk’s Starlink in the Philippines would accelerate the rollout of the government’s free WiFi program in unserved and underserved areas throughout the country.

According to DICT Secretary Ivan John E. Uy, the Philippines is the first nation in Southeast Asia to enjoy Starlink’s services, which pledge to provide download speeds of up to 200 Mbps.

Uy believes that Starlink’s entry to the Philippines will be a game-changer as it will complement and enhance existing broadband capabilities, resulting in faster broadband speed and better connectivity, particularly in areas where connectivity has been challenging or impossible.

“In welcoming this new technology that is Starlink, our BroadBand ng Masa can now provide free high-speed internet access to our geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in the Philippines, ensuring that no Filipino will be left behind,” Uy said.

The national government’s free Wi-Fi program, BroadBand ng Masa (BBM), through DICT, has already established a total of 4,385 operational live sites in 73 provinces and Metro Manila, spanning 601 cities and municipalities throughout the country.

Starlink’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network constellation has the potential to improve internet access in unserved and underserved areas of the Philippines. As of February 2023, Starlink has over 3,580 operational satellites.

However, the company’s ultimate goal is to have as many as 40,000 satellites to provide high-speed, low-cost internet to remote regions across the globe.

The Philippine unit of Musk’s SpaceX, Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc., obtained the National Telecommunications Commission’s approval as a value-added service provider.

Starlink’s VAS registration enables the company to directly access satellite systems, construct and operate broadband facilities, and offer internet services.

Earlier, Starlink collaborated with Data Lake, a company led by bilyonaryo Henry “Big Boy” Sy Jr., to bring satellite broadband services across the country.