Tech

More Filipinos Are Signing Up For Elon Musk's Starlink Satellite Internet. Here's What You Need to Know

Satellite internet in the Philippines will soon become a reality.
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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Starlink is a satellite internet system from Elon Musk’s Space X. Essentially it seeks to provide internet to the most remote locations across the planet by sending data via radio signals through space instead of cables. 

In October last year, Starlink started its public beta program in the United States, where users can actually test out the service for themselves. Beta testers shelled out $499 (about P24,300) for the Starlink Kit (basically the satellite dish and Wi-Fi router), which is delivered to your address, as well as the service fee of $99 (P4,800) monthly. Earlier this year, SpaceX expanded the beta testing program to Canada and the United Kingdom.

In addition, reports said that SpaceX has registered Starlink subsidiaries in several other countries worldwide, including Austria, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, and the Philippines.

What does this mean?

Well, for one thing, Starlink has begun taking “reservations” for the planned expansion of its service in the country. If you go to Starlink.com, you will be asked to input your service address and make a deposit of $99. After that, you’re officially on the waiting list of people who will receive the service at launch.

And when will that be?

Starlink has not given a specific date for beta testing in the Philippines except to say that it is targeting coverage here in 2022.

But already, we have heard reports of Filipinos shelling out the reservation fee in the hopes of being the first to try out the service that is expected to revolutionize the way people access the internet. Even local tech pioneer Abe Olandres aka Yugatech said he already made a deposit for it last month. Chalk it up to frustration about the less-than-ideal service people are getting from established local ISPs, or perhaps they’ve been swept up by the hype surrounding Musk and his SpaceX company. Or maybe it’s just plain curiosity. Whatever it is, the hype seems to be real and people can’t wait to try out Starlink for themselves.

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But how exactly does Starlink work and why are people so excited about it? Here are answers to some of your other pressing questions:

How does Starlink work?

Although satellite internet isn’t exactly new, Starlink is groundbreaking for using a network (or “constellation”) of satellites at low Earth orbit or LEO (only about 300 miles above Earth’s surface), which dramatically improves internet speeds versus existing satellites that are higher up in the atmosphere. These satellites are launched into orbit by SpaceX’s rocket missions.As of February, Starlink currently has 1,000 of its satellites in orbit. 

How fast is internet via Starlink?

According to Starlink itself, data speeds vary from 50Mbps to 150Mbps and latency (or time it takes for data to be transferred between its original source and its destination) from 20ms to 40ms. This seems to be at par with the range reported by beta users.

“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically,” the company says in its FAQ section. 

Can you change your service address?

According to the company, whatever address you provide when you first sign up is the address it will honor. However, “(w)hen placing your initial order, you will have the option to select a different Shipping Address to receive your Starlink packages.” 

Also, Starlink satellites send internet to users within a designated area on the ground called a cell.

“Your Starlink is assigned to a single cell. If you move your Starlink outside of its assigned cell, a satellite will not be scheduled to serve your Starlink and you will not receive internet.”

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Can you cancel or get a refund?

Yes to both. If, for any reason, you decide that Starlink isn’t for you, just log in to the Customer Account Portal and request for a cancellation and/or refund.

When will Starlink arrive in the Philippines?

Apart from the company’s response that service in this area is expected to start in 2022, your guess is as good as ours. We do know that representatives of SpaceX have already met with government officials to discuss the Starlink project, and local broadband ISP Converge has also confirmed talks with Starlink, but stressed that a partnership between the two companies was still “premature.”

All that plus the fact that SpaceX has already registered here in the Philippines point to the fact that Starlink debuting its services here in the country is only a matter of time.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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