PH gov't eyes internet connectivity in rural areas

By Ma. Cristina Arayata

October 12, 2021, 8:19 pm

<p>Agnes Bonafe, Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) Space Business Development Division chief (<em>Screenshot from PCOO Global Media Affair's Facebook page</em>) </p>

Agnes Bonafe, Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) Space Business Development Division chief (Screenshot from PCOO Global Media Affair's Facebook page

MANILA – The government is eyeing additional option for internet connectivity so that this could reach the rural areas.

"There is a need to offer viable options for effective broadband connectivity in rural areas of the country. We believe that the advent of new satellite systems can help, and we would like to be able to try out their new technologies in the local setting, especially in rural and remote areas," said Agnes Bonafe, Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) Space Business Development Division chief, in a virtual presser on Tuesday.

With this, PhilSA is introducing the Incentivise project, which calls for new Satellite Internet Operators (SIOs) to conduct test deployments in selected remote sites. This would allow the performance and viability of their new and advanced technologies to be demonstrated, experienced and assessed ahead of planned or scheduled commercial service.

"The difference of satellite broadband with fiber connectivity is that it exhibits a wide coverage, allowing connectivity to reach the rural areas. They are not competing technologies, but they should be seen as complementary technologies," Bonafe said.

The project thus supports EO 127 (Expanding the Provision of Internet Services through Inclusive Access to Satellite Services) by introducing additional options for satellite communications to the local market and fostering competition.

Bonafe said the call targets companies that operate satellites in the so-called Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO), for providing internet access. Examples of NGSO SIOs include OneWeb, Starlink and SES O3B MEO.

She pointed out that utilizing the space segment of telecommunications will address the digital divide.

"Incentivise will help us assess their (SIOs) performance in the Philippines and determine their performance in the local setting or under local conditions," Bonafe said, adding that the project may start with the remote communities that need internet connectivity.

These could be areas served by rural community networks or places served by the Department of Information and Communications Technology's (DICT) free wi-fi access points, including schools, rural health centers, government offices, Disaster Risk Reduction Management offices, among others.

According to Bonafe, internet connection is made through the Internet Point of Presence (PoP) in the Philippines. For the Philippine government, the DICT and the Advanced Science and Technology Institute host such Internet PoPs.

"To bridge this gap between remote areas and the Internet Point of Presence in the Philippines, we will use internet satellites," she continued.

The project will facilitate the entry and deployment of satellite user terminals and/or gateway equipment, to allow access to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) satellites to establish broadband internet connection.

Meanwhile, Bonafe noted that PhilSA will assess the performance of the NGSO Internet satellites under local environmental conditions, such as heavy rains, power interruptions or outages.

"Together with the open call, coordination with relevant government agencies is underway. We are also preparing a list of sites for the test deployment," she said.

Starting the Incentivise project, Bonafe said, is seen to aid in the Philippines' economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic by accelerating the deployment of ICT infrastructure to address the increased need for digital connectivity. (PNA)