Starlink—the satellite network developed and operated by SpaceX that is owned by multibillionaire Elon Musk—is now being used in the Philippines to address the connectivity gap in isolated areas, especially for education and local governance.
The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) announced that Starlink is part of the agency’s Introducing Non-Geostationary Satellite Constellations Test Deployment to Improve Internet Services (Incentivise) Project, the agency said in a news release.
PhilSA launched Incentivise open call in October 2021 with the aim of focusing on the space segment and emerging space technologies in order to address the digital divide in the country.
SpaceX responded to the open call.
PhilSA is implementing the project with the Department of Science and Technology’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI), and in collaboration with the USAID-Better Access and Connectivity (Beacon).
Starlink kits have been installed by PhilSA in Barangay Apad, Jomalig, Quezon province, and in Barangay Dikapanikian, Dingalan, Aurora, which are among the geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas in the Philippines.
The Starlink’s low Earth orbit satellites are being used for the deployment in these areas uses for Internet connectivity.
It has focus on public education and local governance, where students, teachers and the local government office will have free Internet connectivity for six months.
During the demonstrations, PhilSA and other stakeholders gained insights into the performance of the system in the local setting, considering weather and other site conditions.
The Internet connection is a tremendous help, according to Dr. Sharon Villaverde, the public schools district supervisor of the Department of Education in Jomalig, Quezon.
“Having high-speed Internet is a great help to the students and teachers, especially in creating lesson plans as they now have access to online resources,” Villaverde said partly n Filipino.
She added that teachers are also able to participate in online training, meetings and events.
At the same time, the students are significantly more interactive and engaged in the lessons since the teachers are able to incorporate new technologies in their lessons.
“Moreover, having connectivity in times of disasters is helpful especially as Barangay Apad is frequented by typhoons,” she pointed out.
PhilSA Director General Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano Jr. said: “This initiative is meant to demonstrate the capabilities of new and emerging space technologies, such as Low Earth Orbit Internet satellite constellations in bridging the connectivity gap, especially in remote and rural areas.”
Marciano explained that for the country’s archipelagic and maritime nation “satellites can effectively and quickly provide a canopy of high-speed Internet coverage to communities and nautical highways that open the door to economic opportunities.”
He added: “Satellite overlays complement and coexist with the continuing rollout of terrestrial infrastructure and undersea cables for connecting our many islands.”
According to the US-based company’s website, Starlink offers high-speed connectivity using an advanced satellite constellation that enables lag-free video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high-data-rate activities, PhilSA said.
Starlink also features an easy-to-setup system that makes it ideal for bringing the Internet to remote locations where connectivity may have been unreliable or completely unavailable.
Prior to the Starlink deployment in Aurora and Quezon, PhilSA collaborated with the DOST-ASTI and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in a proof-of-concept for satellite Internet access for rural banks, the news release said.
For those demonstrations, Internet service providers using geostationary satellites were engaged.