Smart joins space wars via satellite broadband deal with Texas firm
PLDT Inc.’s Smart Communications sealed an initial agreement with Texas, United States-based AST SpaceMobile to tap the latter’s broadband satellite project, joining the likes of Converge ICT Solutions in the race to conquer the final frontier.
The companies said in a joint statement they signed a memorandum of understanding covering the use of AST SpaceMobile’s “space-based cellular broadband network.”
The Nasdaq-listed AST SpaceMobile plans to launch commercially between the second half of 2022 and early 2023 with 20 internet satellites. It further aims to reach full global coverage by 2024, information on its website showed.
Telecommunications companies and internet service providers are eyeing broadband satellites to cover parts of the country that cannot be reached by land-based infrastructure such as cell sites and fiber cables.
Fiber internet company Converge ICT earlier confirmed they were in talks with billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which is currently rolling out low-orbit broadband satellites through its Starlink project.
Converge CEO Dennis Anthony H. Uy, a businessman from Pampanga, said broadband satellites could cover about 10-15 percent of the country that would not have access to traditional internet services.
AST SpaceMobile said its technology differed from rivals since its broadband network could be used by standard smartphones. This means users would not need to purchase additional equipment such as satellite phones, terminals or antennas.
Similar to land-based cell sites, it could offer 4G and 5G speeds anywhere on the planet, even during a flight, the company said.
Smart said the MOU with AST SpaceMobile would be available to its more than 70 million mobile subscribers, although demand for this service remained unclear.
Smart did not immediately reply to an Inquirer request for comment on Wednesday.
“This collaboration between Smart and AST SpaceMobile strongly supports this vision, as we continue to invest in our networks and explore the most relevant innovations that will enable us to continue expanding the reach of our services alongside delivering exceptional customer experience across the Philippines’ more than 7,000 islands,” Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart Communications president and CEO, said in the statement.
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