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Philippines grants license to Elon Musk’s satellite services

MANILA: The Philippines’ telecoms regulator has granted a license to billionaire Elon Musk’s high-speed satellite Internet venture Starlink, which is expected to improve connectivity in a country grappling with slow Internet speeds.

The National Telecommunications Commission said the approval of Starlink’s registration as a value-added service provider means the company can directly access satellite systems and operate broadband facilities to offer Internet services across the Philippines.

Starlink, the satellite Internet division of Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, is expected to start offering their services in the archipelago nation in the coming months, NTC said in a statement.

“The NTC is steadfast in helping ensure roll-out of Starlink’s Internet access services will be done expeditiously and professionally,” NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said.

NTC said the Philippines will be the first country in Southeast Asia to offer Starlink services, which authorities expect will cover at a cost-effective rate areas that remain unserved or underserved with Internet access.

“Using advanced satellites in a low orbit, Starlink will enable video calls, online gaming, streaming and other high data activities that historically have not been possible with satellite Internet,” the commission said.

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Starlink services are currently available in about 30 countries, mainly in North America and Europe. The company has so far deployed over 2,000 satellites, with plans to launch thousands more.

“One Starlink can provide Internet for an entire school of hundreds of students … Great potential to lift people out of poverty. Providing Internet is teaching people to fish,” Musk said in a couple of tweets on Saturday, which followed his announcement of Starlink’s approval in the Philippines.

The Philippines lags behind most countries in Southeast Asia in mobile and fixed broadband Internet speed, ranking 95th and 59th respectively in the world as of April 2022, according to the Speedtest Global Index.

Stephen Cutler, Manila cybersecurity expert and tech entrepreneur, said Starlink is going to provide a good alternative network for information in the Philippines.

“I’m very, very excited about the opportunity for a company like Starlink who will be able to provide some relatively high-speed data transfer at a competitive cost,” Cutler told Arab News, adding that services provided by telcos operating in the Philippines are still relatively costly.

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