Satellite firm invests in rural broadband service

MANILA – With a vision to link rural communities to the world, Thai commercial satellite operator THAICOM announced that it is investing US$15 million (Php700 million) to provide a broadband service that will connect rural communities to the Internet.

Dubbed “IPSTAR BigSky,” the product is the latest retail hi-speed Internet package by THAICOM, said Nile Suwansiri, marketing head of THAICOM, noting that the launch in Manila is now the company’s 11th IPSTAR Gateway. The service promises to deliver Internet speed of up to 2Mbps (megabytes per second).

“The $15 million investment is dedicated for the Philippines alone,” Suwansiri said, adding that THAICOM’s broadband satellite system IPSTAR is capable of providing the IPSTAR BigSky Internet package to the entire Philippine archipelago, which consists of about 7,000 islands.

According to Dr. Dumrong Kasemset, executive committee chairman of THAICOM, IPSTAR system is covered by its THAICOM 4 satellite, which he claims is the “biggest satellite with the size of 20 conventional satellites combined.” He said IPSTAR is planned to deliver broadband services to millions of users over 14 countries in Asia-Pacific, with a bandwidth capacity of more than 45 gigabits per second (Gbps).

“The Philippines, consisting of over 7,000 islands, makes IPSTAR an ideal solution to provide nationwide broadband services,” Dr. Kasemset said. “With the launch of the IPSTAR BigSky, Filipinos nationwide now have the opportunity to be connected to broadband, anytime and anywhere.”

THAICOM has chosen the We Are IT Philippines Inc. (WIT) as its service provider for IPSTAR BigSky and Dr. Kasemset said THAICOM is also looking forward to work closely with other local service providers to develop and expand the broadband market here.

Jose Maddatu, president of WIT, told Computerworld Philippines that IPSTAR is tapping a new market for Internet broadband service referring to the rural communities. “We are launching IPSTAR BigSky with a low price offering ($49 per month) for rural communities and we aim to educate them about the Internet also,” Madattu said, adding that IPSTAR will also target government projects, schools, and enterprises in the Philippines. “We are also working to offer PCs to rural residents in the future,” Madattu added.

Prior to the launch, WIT has already provided IPSTAR services to schools through IPSTAR’s First Generation service using a conventional satellite to Mindanao and other areas in the Philippines. With the opening of the IPSTAR Gateway in Manila, existing customers will be transferred to the IPSTAR satellite, which offers greater performance and capacity to accommodate the growing demand for broadband in the country.

Executives said there are now about 160,000 IPSTAR subscribers in South East Asia, with 300 of them in Mindanao and Cagayan in the Philippines.

IPSTAR currently provides full nationwide broadband satellite services in eight countries such as Australia, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Dr. Kasemset said they plan to launch IPSTAR gateways soon in Indonesia, India, Japan, and Taiwan.

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