By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
THE NATIONAL Telecommunications Commission (NTC) expects more foreign satellite broadband providers to enter the Philippines after its approval of the registration of Starlink Internet Services Philippines, Inc., subsidiary of Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX).
“It’s expected that the others will follow. First, the implementing rules for the amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA) are being prepared by the National Economic and Development Authority, so others are probably just waiting for the specific rules,” NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo V. Cabarios told BusinessWorld in a phone interview on May 27.
Republic Act (RA) No. 11659, which President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed in March, amends the 85-year-old Commonwealth Act No. 146, or the PSA Act. It eases the restrictions on full foreign ownership of businesses in key sectors such as telecommunications, shipping, airlines, railways, and subways.
Mr. Cabarios said the amended PSA led to the formation of Starlink Internet Services Philippines, which received its certificate of registration as a value-added service provider (VAS) from the NTC on May 26.
“Many foreign companies, telcos, have expressed interest to enter the Philippine market,” he said. “The Philippine market is a growing market, especially for broadband or internet access. Demand is huge. It is growing every day.”
The NTC said in a statement on Friday last week that Starlink Internet Services Philippines will offer “high-speed low latency satellite internet service with download speed between 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps” to Filipinos.
“We would like to thank the NTC for issuing Starlink’s VAS license 30 minutes after we submitted our application with complete requirements. This shows the government’s seriousness in addressing the connectivity needs of our countrymen in unserved and underserved areas. This will also prepare us in the event of natural disasters and calamities,” Bien Marquez of Quisumbing Torres, SpaceX’s counsel, was quoted as saying in the NTC statement.
Mr. Cabarios said other foreign satellite broadband operators can expect the same treatment from the NTC, as VAS is a deregulated service.
“Being a deregulated service, approvals should be fast,” he noted.
Starlink’s registration as a VAS provider allows it to directly access satellite systems, build and operate broadband facilities to offer internet services in the country. The company’s certificate of registration is valid until April 14, 2023.
“Starlink is expected to cover villages in urban and suburban areas and rural areas that remain unserved or underserved with internet access services. The service is expected to bring cost effective internet access in these areas,” the NTC said.