Starlink as the 4th telco?

Published February 10, 2021, 5:00 AM

by J. Albert Gamboa

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is planning to roll out its Starlink broadband services in the Philippines by the third quarter of 2021. SpaceX vice president for satellite government affairs Patricia Cooper disclosed this during a recent videoconference with Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations.

In a privilege speech last week, Pimentel underscored the importance of improving broadband connectivity in the country. He hopes that the Philippines will be one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to be covered by the Starlink satellite internet, which has already been launched in North America and the United Kingdom.

Cooper believes that the country will benefit immensely from Starlink’s low latency and reliable internet which can make possible the following value-added services especially during the current pandemic: effective contact tracing and quarantine monitoring; online education and remote learning; enhanced security; emergency and disaster preparedness; and more accessible government services.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was named last month by Forbes magazine as the richest person in the world. He also heads the Tesla Group, a clean energy and electric vehicle firm based in California’s Silicon Valley. SpaceX is in the process of deploying thousands of Starlink satellites that will beam high speed internet worldwide through a platform that will connect Filipino businesses and consumers.

Pimentel said Starlink’s broadband service would ensure that unserved and underserved rural communities in the Philippines will be given access points to the internet. “In this new normal, Filipinos deserve nothing but the full benefits of digitization as a constitutional right,” he emphasized at the Upper House’s plenary session, where he was supported by Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public services.

Subsequently, Poe held a press conference and spoke enthusiastically about the prospect of Starlink becoming a new player in the country’s telecommunications industry. She noted that the costs of SpaceX’s internet services provider would initially be much higher than existing market rates but would become more affordable over time.

Lamenting that decades of inaction from telco regulators has caused the Philippines to fall behind its ASEAN neighbors in terms of connectivity, she renewed her push for Senate Bill No. 1831 or the “Better Internet Act” that would hold telco players to higher standards – a cause that could be strengthened by the entry of Starlink as the country’s fourth telco.

It may be recalled that last July, a Senate public services committee hearing into the status of internet service in the country took an ironic twist when Poe had to suspend the meeting due to connectivity issues.

OVIALAND TAPS PAG-IBIG

Housing developer Ovialand Inc. is slated to take out P1 billion in housing loans for 2021 through state-run Pag-IBIG Fund. The company caters to the emerging market of middle-class Filipino homebuyers.

Ovialand Vice President Pammy Vital said 600 housing units are targeted for completion this year across four developments in Quezon and Laguna provinces, of which 70% are already sold and scheduled for turnover to homebuyers.

Vital praised the Pag-IBIG Fund management and staff for their heroic service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “They were able to quickly shift to maximizing the use of technology in verifying loan applications and conducting unit inspections. Thankfully Pag-IBIG Fund was there to process the loans of our clients,” she shared.

As the demand for house and lot units continues to grow, Ovialand is ready to face a busy year ahead with its brand promise of “premier family living” and commitment to provide clients the premium experience in real estate. “Pandemic or not, our nation is at the cusp of a new generation. 75% of homebuyers are millennials who are starting their young families and this pandemic has made many realize the need to prioritize a home investment rather than careless spending,” Vital revealed in a media interview.

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