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Space-Based Mobile Coverage to Be Deployed in the Philippines

The pandemic’s impact, combined with the regulatory environment and low competition, has hampered ICT policy interventions even further. The digital landscape has made productivity a privilege, and those without adequate access are being left behind, missing out on opportunities ranging from necessities and quality education to decent work and reskilling. In a post-COVID-19 world, the challenges to the Philippines and other countries in delivering availability, accessibility and affordability of reliable internet have never been greater.

In correspond, a leading full-service telecommunications company in the Philippines has risen to the challenge of delivering nationwide mobile broadband services and network coverage. In collaboration with a Texas-based company, which is said to be building the first and only space-based cellular network accessible by standard mobile phones, revealed on Tuesday, July 6, signed its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) together with the Philippines telecommunication company.

“This collaboration between our telecom company and the Texas network provider 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,” said the Philippines telecom company president and CEO. “This new satellite communications technology aims to help us accomplish our mission of connecting the entire nation, where nobody gets left behind.” He then added.

OpenGov Asia had reported, that the Philippine’s senator has filed a bill seeking for the satellite-based internet to be improved in these poor-connectivity areas in the Philippines. The bill intends to expand Internet access by improving the entry of new satellite technologies to provide services to areas that are either unserved or underserved.

The lawmaker said that satellite-based internet is widely used by both developed and developing countries to provide internet services, particularly in areas where wired or mobile networks are more expensive to roll out. At a time when most transactions were shifted to virtual platforms to lessen physical interactions amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the senator said the use of digital technologies in the country is still below its potential with 45% of Filipinos and 74% of public schools nationwide remain unconnected. The situation is far worse in the Visayas and Mindanao where there’s less than 40% of Internet usage.

In order to achieve universal internet access, the aims to have the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) expand access to satellite-based technologies as an alternate connection solution. It will exercise regulatory and administrative jurisdiction over ISPs and satellite policies, pursue policies to secure necessary orbital slots for PH satellites, and identify areas that are underserved and unserved by traditional broadband network operators and where the use of satellite-based internet can be maximised, to name a few.

The challenge for mobile operators is that 60 % of the world’s unconnected people live in rural areas, which necessitates significant time and investment to build networks in difficult environments. As national governments around the globe implement broadband targets and initiatives, mobile network operators have an opportunity to expand network coverage and provide affordable Internet services to unserved communities in both developing and developed countries. Reaching out to new markets allows them to add new subscribers in the short term while stimulating local economic growth, which will result in higher long-term returns on investment.

Universal access to high-quality internet is critical for the Philippines and much of the rest of the world to achieve digital transformation, boost growth, expand opportunities, and improve service delivery. Decision-makers can be better informed on targeted investments and strategic plans to address digital poverty by supplementing ground truth information on digital access with machine learning poverty estimates and open data on broadband speeds and cell tower locations.

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