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Elon Musk's Starlink poised to enter Philippine internet market

Satellite-based service provider aims to begin operating in fourth quarter

Elon Musk's Starlink will make its first foray into Southeast Asia in the Philippines, a country struggling with slow internet connection speeds. (Source photos by Getty Images/AP)

MANILA -- Billionaire Elon Musk's high-speed satellite internet venture Starlink is set to enter the Philippines after its local unit secured regulatory approval from the country, which is grappling with slow internet speeds.

The Philippines' telecom regulator on Friday said it approved the registration of Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc., "paving the way for the company to start offering internet access services to the Philippine market in the coming months."

Starlink's service is scheduled to be up and running in the Philippines by the fourth quarter, according to its website.

The Philippines will be the first country in Southeast Asia to offer Starlink's services, which are provided through advanced, low-orbit satellites, the country's National Telecommunications Commission said in a statement.

The service is available in more than 30 countries, mainly in North America and Europe. It has deployed over 2,000 satellites and plans to launch thousands more. The company offers high-speed, low-latency satellite internet service with download speeds between 100 megabits per second and 200 Mbps, the commission said.

The Philippines ranks 95th in mobile internet speed and 59th in fixed broadband internet speed, according to the Speedtest Global Index, lagging behind most countries in Southeast Asia. In April, median download speeds in the Philippines stood at 19.45 Mbps and 55.21 Mbps for mobile and fixed broadband, respectively, according to the index.

Starlink is expected to cover unserved or underserved villages in urban and suburban areas and rural areas, the commission said.

Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, an independent industry researcher, said Starlink's entry into the Philippines will provide a choice for end users, especially those in areas not reached by incumbent providers.

But its success in the country will partly depend on how quickly the government can enable Starlink to set up the necessary infrastructure. "Is there enough spectrum for satellite Internet? Will Starlink be allowed to deploy the necessary network so that it can provide seamless end-to-end satellite broadband service to the Filipino people?"

Another question "is market response. Will the Filipino consumers avail [themselves of] the service? Is Starlink's service affordable enough?" Mirandilla-Santos said.

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