As tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Starlink project in the Philippines inches closer to becoming a reality, integrated telco PLDT Inc. is preparing to offer its own space-based connectivity package to users. The biggest question, however, is how much it would cost.
PLDT and Smart investigating
In an interview with The STAR, Manuel V. Pangilinan stated that PLDT and Smart Communications Inc. are investigating the use of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide better connectivity for their subscribers. “Smart and PLDT are also talking to a number of satellite operators as well. Eventually, it (space-based connectivity) will be part of the overall offering,” Pangilinan said.
President and CEO of PLDT Alfredo Panlilio told The STAR that before they launch the service, they are considering several things, such as the expense of offering it, the affordability for users, and if there is a market for it in the Philippines.
Fiber still best for Philippines
“The best technology for connectivity remains to be fiber. It’s our flagship for broadband offering, wireless is just second. In terms of coverage, fiber runs very well,” he said. At present, PLDT has the most extensive fiber network in the Philippines.
Panlilio added that while they have several concerns, they are still optimistic about the potential of space-based connectivity. Thus, they have signed partnerships with various satellite operators in order to prepare for the launch of the service.
In May, the PLDT Group announced that it intended to conduct space-based cellular broadband testing in the country with its US-based partner AST SpaceMobile, with the BlueWalker 3 satellite.
Recently, AST Spacemobile has been in a head-to-head race with Starlink in the satellite carrier market, however, analysts believe AST Spacemobile remains more advanced in terms of technology and is better positioned to offer the service commercially.
Meanwhile, Starlink’s partner in the Philippines is billionaire Henry Sy Jr. and his firm SMIC Investments. Sy is backing Data Lake, Inc., a local data company, which has been tapped to distribute Starlink services in the Philippines.