SpaceX satellite internet in PH up in 3 months

SpaceX, a company founded by tech billionaire Elon Musk, will launch its satellite internet service in the Philippines sometime in the last few months of the Duterte administration, said Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez.

Lopez told reporters in a Viber message on Thursday that the service will be launched in the next three months.

In a statement also yesterday, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said SpaceX is already in the process of selecting where to deploy its services as the first phase of its launch, although DTI did not specify which areas are under consideration.

“The company is currently establishing a local Filipino entity that will be their wholly owned subsidiary and is targeting to deploy three gateways in the first phase of their launch,” the statement read.

“The Philippines is set to be the first in Southeast Asia to avail of such technology that will bring high-speed satellite broadband connectivity to customers, particularly to areas where connectivity has been difficult or impossible,” it added.

Talks with gov’t

The Board of Investments, DTI’s investment promotion arm, has been in talks with Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which wants to bring its Starlink project to the Philippines.

This developed as the government amended the Public Service Act or PSA, which had essentially allowed foreigners to own 100 percent of businesses that were previously restricted by law for local majority control only.

The DTI said the amendment was a “critical factor in the company’s decision to invest, as all its technologies are proprietary.”

Relaxed rules

The Philippine Constitution required that public utilities must be 60-percent Filipino-owned. But the charter did not define “public utilities.” Moreover, the PSA, or Commonwealth Act No. 146, listed and regulated public services, which were treated as public utilities.

The amended version of the PSA—which was first enacted in 1936—defined public utilities and differentiated these from public services, therefore opening the latter to full foreign ownership. These included internet satellite services, among other sectors that previously restricted how much foreigners can own in their own business.

The Inquirer reported in October last year that SpaceX was firming up deals with Filipino companies, a move that would require local partners with legislative franchises and infrastructure. However, the amended PSA relieves them of this requirement, allowing them to run a company they would fully own.

At least two presidential aspirants—Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso—have previously said they are also in talks with SpaceX, with Domagoso wanting to make the service also available in Manila.

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