It’s been a crazy week for Elon Musk as he closes his deal to acquire Twitter. However, for SpaceX, it’s business as usual as it partners with a Philippines-based business called Data Lake Inc. to offer Starlink service in the Philippines.
The deal with Data Lake Inc. is a first for SpaceX in the Southeast Asia market. Developing Internet access in the Philippines has proven difficult, considering it consists of 7,600 islands, some of which are difficult for “traditional” Internet service providers to reach. The Philippines also gets hit with an average of 20 tropical storms a year, which does damage to infrastructure and can cause communications between islands to drop out.
“The Philippines is an archipelago, and connecting our country to the wider world often requires extensive infrastructure,” Data Lake Chairman Anthony Almeda said.
The deal with Starlink can provide a backup to keep communications up and running as the archipelago tries to rebuild after each tropical storm. It can also provide Internet service for the 93% of the Philippines’ population that don’t have fixed broadband Internet subscriptions. According to the World Bank, the Philippines has lagged behind other countries in the region like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand when it comes to reliable access to high-speed Internet.
With this deal, Starlink and Data Lake Inc. can more readily provide Internet access to the Philippines’ government and local businesses. The country’s information and communications technology ministry said Starlink could enter the market as early as 2023.
SpaceX Still Rocks Launching Satellites and Landing Rocket Stages
SpaceX launched more than 3,500 satellites for the Starlink constellation on its Falcon 9 rockets. On October 27, 2022, it launched 53 more of them.
The rocket it used for this most recent launch has now been reused eight times and the first stage successfully landed on the barge named “Of Course I Still Love You.” By this point, they make landing the first stage look easy. This first stage booster previously launched the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Earth-observation satellite in November 2020 and NASA’s DART mission in November 2021.
(DART reached and smashed into its target asteroid on September 26, 2022. But don’t worry; it was supposed to do that. NASA explains in the below news conference.)
With that many Starlink satellites in orbit, SpaceX can now reliably blanket Earth with Internet access. It even piloted Internet service for science stations in the Antarctic.
Gaining licensing from governments has occasionally proven to be the tricky part. A French court revoked Starlink’s license in April. SpaceX had to issue refunds to Indian customers after India ordered it to stop “booking/rendering the satellite internet service” without obtaining a license.
This is one arena where Elon Musk may reasonably express frustration with regulations and government bureaucracy. In the wake of having to issue refunds in India, he wrote in a statement, “At Starlink, we want to serve the underserved. We hope to work with fellow broadband providers, solution providers in the aspirational districts to improve and save lives.”
However, other countries like the Philippines are more receptive due to the challenge of running “land lines” to remote or hard-to-reach communities and the need to keep communications up and running in the wake of natural disasters like the frequent tropical storms that hit the Philippines.