PhilSA bets on satellite tech to expand financial inclusion

satellite philSA
Image by joaoserafim | Bigstockphoto

The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) is testing a new way to provide financial services to rural areas via satellite internet connectivity.

PhilSA has started to deploy satellite internet services provided by iOne Resource for two rural banks in Batangas: the Progressive Bank of Malvar and Rural Bank of Cuenca in Batangas, a province south of Manila.

The test is being conducted in partnership with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Department of Science and Technology – Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI).

The tech solution, explained

The tech solution on the ground involves a weather and performance monitoring system (WPMS) apparatus developed by DOST-ASTI. The WPMS is equipped with a network performance monitoring device connected to the satellite internet user equipment deployed at the two rural banks. The device measures network parameters such as upload and download speeds, throughput, latency, and jitter.

Also, the WPMS collects and analyzes data from weather stations such as rain, temperature, humidity, and pressure to evaluate the performance and reliability of satellite internet connections under local weather conditions. This is a key issue for satellite services, as radio signals beamed from geostationary orbit can be affected by heavy rains.

DOST-ASTI engineer John Chris Kwong said the project won’t stop at just connectivity – it will eventually endeavor to educate people about financial literacy.

“Aside from doing research on the efficiency and effectiveness of satellite internet services for banks, we also plan on using digital TV technology and internet infrastructure that we are developing to teach people in the unserved and underserved areas about financial literacy,” Kwong said in a statement. “We don’t just plan to equip them with the technology, we want to teach them how to use it for their betterment.”

If the tests are successful, they could have big implications not only for financial services, but also for other industries in the Philippines.

Satellite internet in the Philippines

This move comes as SpaceX’s Starlink begins to offer its satellite internet service in the Philippines. Last month, the country’s Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) conducted a press briefing with Starlink to discuss the company’s entry into the Philippine market.

The government intends to shoulder the installation of Starlink satellites in rural areas, where communities can share one connection. The service is said to be able to provide speeds of up to 200 Mbps with very low latency.

As of September 2021, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) reports that an average of 18% of Philippine households have access to the internet. The National Capital Region (NCR), where Metro Manila is located, has the highest proportion at 33%. Meanwhile, the country’s Muslim region, Bangsamoro, has the lowest proportion at 4%.

“Despite the widespread cellphone signal coverage and mobile device ownership, internet usage in the country remains low owing to poor and expensive internet connectivity and inadequate digital infrastructure, especially outside NCR,” said Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, an independent ICT policy researcher.

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