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Thaicom: Broadband in RP’s rural areas

Posted on: February 24, 2009

By Anna Valmero
First Posted 16:54:00 11/07/2008

Filed Under: Technology (general), Internet, Satellite technology

MAKATI CITY, Philippines — Commercial satellite operator Thaicom Public Co. Ltd. is looking at deploying Internet service in rural communities in the Philippines.

“Satellite communications-based Internet is an ideal technology to connect the 7,107 islands in the Philippines especially the rural communities, which do not have telecommunications infrastructure available for conventional Internet service,” said Dumrong Kasemset, Thaicom chairman, during a briefing.

Launching its broadband Internet service in the Philippines, Kasemset, said the company has invested about $15 million in satellite and terrestrial infrastructure.

Kasemset said the investments hopes to revitalize the previous-generation “mom-and-pop” telcommunications companies in rural areas and help them connect to wider networks.

Thaicom also hopes to help the country’s disaster recovery program, providing much-needed telecommunications services in isolated areas in the country.

Thaicom’s local partner We are IT Philippines Inc. (WIT) will operate the gateway as service provider.

TNR, a local telecommunications franchise, on the other end, will provide and charge users for the Internet broadband access service.

“We are bullish we can penetrate and grow in the market, given that the rural areas nationwide is a big market that remains to be tapped,” said WIT president Jose Maddatu.

Over the next three to five years, Maddatu said the company is eyeing 50,000 subscribers from government, schools and enterprises.

Currently, there are 300 subscribers of the new service in Mindanao.

However, issues in Mindanao has forced WIT to change its expansion plans and is now eyeing Luzon rural areas as top priority for expansion, followed by Visayas, executives said.

Key to providing the Internet broadband service is Thaicom’s satellite Ipstar (Thaicom 4) satellite, which is said to cover 90 percent of the Philippine archipelago.

The satellite can offer 1.5 gigabyte per second capacity to local users — equivalent to a total of 100, 000 subscribers, said Kasemset.

The Ipstar broadband satellite is said to have a total capacity of 20 conventional satellites or equal to 45 gigabytes per second.

Launched in 2005, it can operate for the next 13 years.

Prior to the launch of the “Ipstar BigSky” service, WIT has provided services to schools through Ipstar’s first-generation service using conventional satellite to Mindanao.

The opening of the new Ipstar gateway in Manila will allow for existing customers to be transferred to the new satellite, said Kesemset.

Executives said one of the challenges of deploying the service is the availability of PC units that can be used to connect via the Internet.

For this, WIT and Thaicom are exploring options of getting low-cost PCs to the rural areas.

Both firms are also planning awareness campaigns among rural dwellers on the benefits of getting Internet connected.

Maddatu said this is the first “retail” satellite-based Internet broadband service in the country. Plans to make the service available in prepaid is possible in the future, he said.

Three packages are offered for the Ipstar service: P2,300 for 512 kilobyte per second, P3,700 for 1 megabit per second and P6,500 for 2 megabit per second connections.

The Philippines is the eighth market and eleventh Ipstar gateway of Thaicom in Southeast Asia.

Current gateways include Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Mayanmar, Cambodia and Laos and China. Target markets for gateway expansion include Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Japan.


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