After reports that Converge is reportedly partnering with SpaceX for bringing Starlink’s satellite internet services to the Philippines, Converge released a statement regarding the matter in a Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) disclosure.
In its statement, Converge acknowledged that they are looking for possible tech solutions to bring internet access to remote locations in the Philippines. “However, it is still very premature to talk about a possible partnership between Converge and SpaceX at this stage,” Converge explained further in its disclosure.
Converge and SpaceX partnership: Why the deal isn’t done yet
While Converge neither confirmed or denied the news report, there is still hope that the partnership may happen. As a direct rival to PLDT, Globe, and Skycable, Converge is finding all possible means to expand its network coverage in the Philippines. Currently, Converge’s internet coverage is mostly in Luzon, and it plans to cover 55% of around 27.5 million households by 2025.
Expanding its coverage in the Philippines would involve investing in infrastructure, and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service is a great opportunity for Converge to stand out against the likes of Globe, PLDT, Skycable, and (soon) DITO Telecommunity. Given the expensive costs of Starlink as explained by Sen. Grace Poe, a Converge-SpaceX partnership could possibly help lower the costs of Starlink once it becomes official in the Philippines.
Since its launch last October, Starlink has around 10,000 subscribers spread through countries like the United Kingdom, Northern US, and Southern Canada. Starlink delivers internet connectivity to its users through satellites that SpaceX has deployed–and continues to do so–since May 2019. Speeds vary anywhere between 50mbps to 150mbps, though users managed to do as high as 215mbps and up to 175mbps in freezing conditions.
How long will we wait for the partnership?
While there are initial reports that Starlink might arrive in the Philippines by the 3rd quarter of this year, we should not get our hopes up yet. As pointed out by one of our readers on Unbox’s Facebook page, Converge might need to apply for a franchise in the Philippines if it pushes through with the SpaceX partnership and offer satellite internet services.
The reason for this is that current laws require a franchise for international satellite technology. Currently, there are only 15 satellites providing broadband connectivity in the country because of the restrictions imposed by EO 467 on the use of satellites.
“We are the only country in the world that requires a congressional franchise to establish a satellite broadband company. We are using outdated regulations that hinder the entry of more players in the broadband industry,” PCCI President Benedicto Yujuico said during the virtual opening of the Mindanao Business Conference 2020.
By liberating the use of satellites without getting a congressional franchise, SpaceX will have an easier time partnering with Converge to offer its satellite internet services to the country.
Until those hurdles are addressed, it will take a while before the partnership becomes a reality. The thought of having satellite internet is definitely interesting, but the government should act quickly if it wants to commit on improving the country’s internet connectivity.
Don’t forget to read our previous articles on the state of internet connectivity in the Philippines: