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SpaceX in talks for Philippines venture

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The talks come amid SpaceX’s ongoing deployment of Starlink satellites, which orbit the planet at lower altitudes, promising more stable internet. SPACEX/AFP

SpaceX in talks for Philippines venture

US tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) is in talks to bring broadband satellite services to the Philippines through a partnership with fibre internet tycoon Dennis Anthony H Uy of Pampanga.

Representatives from SpaceX and Uy’s Converge ICT Solutions Inc met on multiple occasions to discuss a potential venture, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The talks come amid SpaceX’s ongoing deployment of Starlink satellites, which orbit the planet at lower altitudes, promising more stable internet.

Starlink is SpaceX’s massive project to build a constellation of broadband satellites delivering reliable high-speed internet services around the world.

Starlink is currently delivering beta services to domestic and international customers, offering speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) up to 150Mbps. It expects “near global coverage of the populated world in 2021”, information on its website showed.

The Inquirer reached out to Patricia Cooper, SpaceX’s vice-president for satellite government affirms, who was also cited in press statements as engaging with local lawmakers. A SpaceX representative said Cooper could not immediately reply to any queries.

In a statement on February 3, Senator Grace Poe said SpaceX’s broadband services were promising, but costs would likely be “prohibitive for the regular subscriber”.

“It’s about $500 just to set this up, or about 25,000 pesos. Having said that, that’s not necessarily a bad thing because there’s probably a niche market that will be able to afford this technology,” Poe said.

“And we are also looking forward that, in the future, with more subscribers, the cost will go down,” she added.

SpaceX and Converge remain in talks and no final decision has been made, the Inquirer source said.

Converge, one of the country’s largest fibre internet providers, sees satellite internet as a complementary business.

While focused on the fibre internet segment, Uy previously told the Inquirer that the group operates an earth station to serve a limited number of business clients in remote locations where fibre is unavailable.

Earth stations are used to communicate with satellites and are an essential part of a satellite network’s ground segment.

Converge recently announced the doubling of its fibre network to about 55,000km and network provisions for millions of new customers.

Uy said it ended 2020 with over one million customers with plans to reach about 1.7 million subscribers by the end of this year.

Its broader target is to reach 55 per cent of an estimated 27.5 million households in the country by 2025. This will be through a combination of deeper penetration and opening up new markets, Uy said.



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