YOU have to be totally out of touch if you have not heard of Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame that some people say must be an alien from another planet to come up with so many advanced ideas. He is now talking about a global satellite Internet service called Starlink which plans to make use of 40,000 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites about 300 miles above our surface. Currently, there are only about 1,300 LEO satellites that have been launched by SpaceX.
What is mind boggling is the intended Internet speed that Starlink hopes to provide. Download speeds of 150 Mbps and upload speeds of 30 Mbps! However, as of the moment, it is still a long way off from that dream and with coverage focused on regions sitting between 45 and 53 degrees North latitude. For those that know how to read latitudes on the globe, this is not good news for us. To make it easier on those who don’t know how to read it, the Philippines is not part of that coverage.
Service where available is currently being charged at US$99 a month and the satellite dish comes at US$500. While Starlink will be unable to compete on price and speed of a fiber optic cable, it hopes to provide Internet service in locations where there is none or is unreliable. While this may sound super high tech and more like science fiction, it really isn’t, because we already have satellite broadband here in the Philippines through iGSat!
The irony of this is that the current satellite in geostationary orbit at more than 22,000 miles over the Philippines is the European satellite SES-9 which was launched using the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket about 5 years ago. iGSat much like Starlink, cannot compete on a price basis with the more traditional land based methods of Internet access. However, when it is a necessity to have an Internet connection, then price becomes a secondary or non-issue at all, since there is no other option.
iGSat is the brand of the satellite broadband service of G.Telecoms, Inc. and has hundreds of clients, both private companies and individuals, as well as various government agencies including our armed forces. They have a nationwide dealer network to install and service these satellite broadband units, and the reason I know all this is because I am the vice-chairman of this company.
One of our advocacies is to help develop our rural areas and this can only happen if there is the necessary infrastructure in place which includes telecommunications. It certainly does not make sense for a telco to put up a cell site to service one customer. However in our case, this is certainly feasible since all we need to put up is a satellite dish! Many businesses need an Internet link for their branches to communicate with their Head Office, to do credit card transactions, run ATM machines, receive booking orders, send and receive emails and so many other things.
We may not have Starlink but we certainly have iGsat to provide us with satellite Internet service, not at some future point in time, but right now, that will work anywhere, anytime.
The views and comments of the author are his own and not of the newspaper or FINEX. Comments may be sent to [email protected].