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Starlink launch seen in 2023

Converge to lease fiber, earth station to SpaceX

/ 05:18 AM February 16, 2022

A satellite broadband deal between fiber Internet billionaire Dennis Anthony H. Uy’s Converge ICT Solutions and American tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is ready for liftoff.

Uy said they have reached an agreement to lease fiber lines and other ground support equipment to SpaceX, which is forming a constellation of thousands of low-orbit broadband satellites that will beam high-speed internet to far-flung areas on the earth’s surface.

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The project, known as Starlink, will launch commercially in the Philippines in 2023—which marks a delay from its original target sometime this year—information on its website showed.

“We leased our infrastructure to them and some earth stations,” said Uy, who was a guest speaker during a recent forum organized by the Rotary Club of Makati.

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“In fact, in one of the [sites], the backbone and capacity, we are the ones providing it,” he added.

It was not immediately clear if Converge and SpaceX would expand their tie-up beyond the leasing agreement.

During his talk, Uy hinted at SpaceX’s plans to eventually go solo on its Philippine satellite broadband venture.

Overseas investments in internet businesses have been allowed since 2018 after President Duterte issued an executive order lifting foreign ownership caps on select segments.

SpaceX’s vision to provide satellite broadband in any part of the globe has already faced some resistance.

An earlier attempt to provide Starlink services in India was blocked by the Indian government after the company was found lacking the necessary license to operate in the country.

“I think the direction is they want to go on their own, they don’t want to have to partner with locals,” Uy said during the forum.

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But Uy added even foreign companies operating in the Philippines “need to comply with our regulations,” which includes securing the necessary permits from the National Telecommunications Commission to use regulated equipment.

Low orbit satellites were once deployed exclusively for military and scientific purposes.

But the segment had recently caught the attention of tech moguls Musk and Jeff Bezos of Amazon for their ability to provide high-speed internet to locations without fiber lines and cell towers.

Uy said satellite internet providers would not displace more affordable fiber services where it was present.

“Satellite is used for mobility, areas not reachable by infrastructure,” said Uy, who was referring to resorts, mining and transportation companies.

The cost of satellite internet was also prohibitive for most regular internet users. Starlink’s entry-level plans start at $99 per month and a one-time fee of $499 for the antenna and other hardware while local fiber plans start at over $30.

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TAGS: Converge, SpaceX
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