It may already be the year 2021, but when browsing the internet here in the Philippines, sometimes it feels like we’re lagging a few years behind. Although there have been some improvements recently, internet connectivity in the Philippines remains quite slow when compared to our SEA neighbors like Thailand and Singapore. The problem only gets worse when you’re living in the provinces and non-urban areas where getting a fast and smooth connection can be a real struggle.
But there is something on the horizon that can significantly improve internet connectivity in far-flung areas: Starlink. This is a new way of providing internet service from the mind of Elon Musk, famed CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. And it’s coming to the Philippines sooner than you think. Here is all you need to know about Starlink, from how it works to when it will be available in the Philippines.
What is Starlink?
Starlink is a satellite internet service provider that works by sending data via radio signals sent through space instead of through cables or optical fibers. This is made possible by the network (or “constellation”) of satellites that SpaceX has developed and launched into low Earth orbit.
Satellites far from Earth experience much higher latency, which is the time it takes to send data from one point to the next. Because Starlink satellites are launched in low orbit, they are 60 times closer to Earth, creating a high-speed, low-latency experience.
There are currently over 1,200 satellites already in operation, creating a strong network beaming high-speed broadband. In the next few years, Starlink is planning to increase this number to up to 40,000 satellites, further improving the network’s data speeds.
Because Starlink does not need to install wires for connectivity, it can potentially bring high-speed internet to poorly connected, “unreachable” areas.
How does Starlink work?
Early Starlink adopters are provided a kit including everything needed for setup, such as the Starlink dish, WiFi router, power supply, cables, as well as tripod or roof mount.
Once properly installed and set up, the Starlink dish connects and communicates with a Starlink satellite which provides high-speed broadband internet. You can imagine the connection between the two like a single beam. When the satellite moves, the beam also moves. And when there is an obstruction that interrupts the beam connection, your internet connection will also be interrupted.
That is why it’s important that the Starlink dish be set up in a place where there are no obstructions (like trees or poles) to achieve a clear field of view for the dish. Fortunately, there is also a Starlink app that helps you find the perfect location where to set up your Starlink.
Who is Starlink for?
While Starlink can potentially serve everyone around the world, the ones that will benefit the most from the satellite internet service are those that live in far-flung and non-urban locations. These areas are usually underserved by different internet service providers because it is costly and difficult to bring their land-based infrastructure to these remote locations.
For those living in cities and densely populated areas, Starlink in its beta version may not offer such a big improvement when compared to current fiber optics technology. Starlink also requires a clear field of view which may be challenging to achieve in urban areas.
“Important to note that cellular will always have the advantage in dense urban areas,” according to Elon Musk. “Satellites are best for low to medium population density areas.”
So for those living in locations where fiber optics won’t be going available any time soon, Starlink is a promising alternative that can bring high-speed, low-latency internet to your area.
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How fast is Starlink internet?
In its beta version, Starlink can offer data speeds varying from 50Mbps to 150Mbps and latency from 20ms to 40ms.
As Starlink continues to develop by launching more satellites and installing more ground stations, data speed and latency are expected to improve dramatically.
Where is Starlink currently available?
Starlink is already available in beta version in select countries in North America, Europe, and Australia. However, there are immediate plans of expanding its coverage to countries in Asia and South America, with the goal of reaching “most of Earth by the end of the year, all by next year”, said Musk.
When will Starlink come to the Philippines?
The Philippines is one of the countries that Starlink is eyeing to launch its services sometime in 2022, although there are no exact dates or details yet of when the service will be commercially available.
What we know is that Starlink has already been in talks with some government officials about the coverage of the Philippines in its satellite broadband. Starlink is also working up a partnership with Converge ICT to complement the latter’s fiber technology. This partnership is set to bring high-speed internet to people in areas unreachable by Converge’s technology.
Can I already reserve a Starlink?
While there are no exact dates yet for when Starlink will come to the country, you can already pre-order and reserve your Starlink so you can be one of the first ones to test the service when it finally arrives.
You can reserve your spot by placing a fully refundable deposit of $99 (around Php5,000) via the Starlink website. Once the service becomes available in the Philippines (targeted in 2022), you will then be able to order for your Starlink.
The Starlink kit (the satellite dish, WiFi router, among others) is available for $499 (around Php25,350), plus taxes and shipping fee. The monthly service then costs $99.
Although the future of Starlink rollout here in the Philippines is still uncertain, we are anticipating that when it launches, millions of people, even in the most far-flung areas, will benefit from the satellite internet service.