Saturday, March 2, 2024

DTI chief confirms PH first country in SE Asia where SpaceX will operate

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) secretary Ramon Lopez said the Philippine government has vowed to provide assistance to the planned establishment of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) in the country, which will provide Internet services in the Philippines using its Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network constellation called Starlink.

Photo from DTI shows (from left) secretary Ramon Lopez, DFNN executive chairman Ramon Garcia Jr., SpaceX senior manager for government affairs Rebecca Hunter, and SpaceX market access director Ryan Goodnight

The constellation consists of over 1,600 satellites in mid-2021, and will eventually comprise of thousands more of mass-produced small satellites in LEO, which communicate with designated ground transceivers. 

According to the trade chief, the launch of SpaceX and Starlink in the country will enable a much faster broadband speed, better connectivity, more capacity for telecommunications services and more affordable rates for consumers.

“Their system will augment as well as complement existing broadband capacities. This will further capacitate micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), facilitate online learning, e-commerce and fintech,” Lopez said.

Preparations are underway for their registration, as discussed in the recent meeting among Lopez, SpaceX senior executives Rebecca Hunter and Ryan Goodnight, National Telecommunications Commission deputy commissioner Edgardo Cabarios, and DFNN executive chairman Ramon Garcia Jr. 

The trade department said SpaceX is bullish on the growing consumer base and much-improved investment climate in the country with the current major economic reforms.

“They noted that the signing of the amended Public Service Act (PSA), which allows up to 100% foreign ownership of public services in the country, was a critical factor in the company’s decision to invest, as all its technologies are proprietary,” the agency said.  

In a US Investment Mission in November 2021, the DTI’s Board of Investments (BOI) and SpaceX intently discussed the project’s entry timeline. This was followed by a series of online meetings with the company, immediately after the Senate ratification in December last year, an update session in February 2022, and another in early March to discuss further its business plans in the Philippines in line with the amendment to the PSA.

At present, SpaceX’s business application is being processed and the locations of their gateways are being visited. The company is currently establishing a local Filipino entity that will be their wholly-owned subsidiary and is targeting to deploy three gateways in the first phase of their launch.

The Philippines is set to be the first in Southeast Asia to avail of such technology that will bring high-speed satellite broadband connectivity to customers, particularly to areas where connectivity has been difficult or impossible.

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