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Astranis, a San Francisco-based company with an alternative approach to providing internet access from satellites, recently signed a deal to provide dedicated service to the Philippines, a first for the archipelago nation.
They are going to use this capacity to connect hospitals, schools and other enterprises, as well as set up community Wi-Fi centers, Astranis CEO John Gedmark told CNBC.
We estimate that we will get up to 2 million people connected, having access to this broadband internet that they didn't have before, Gedmark added.
The satellite that will provide service to the Philippines is scheduled to launch in 2024. It represents the latest exercise in Astranis' campaign to bring service to underserved communities around the world, with its first small satellite dedicated to bringing service to hundreds of thousands of people in Alaska, and another upcoming satellite that's expected to bring service to 3 million people in Peru.
Astranis will own and operate the satellite, with services provider Orbits Corp. buying capacity through a long-term contract for a local Philippine internet service provider, HTechCorp. Astranis declined to specify financial details of the contract, but Gedmark emphasized the service comes at a very low cost.
The Philippines has a population of more than 100 million people, spread across more than 7,000 often-mountainous islands. That makes broadband service one of their biggest problems to date, Gedmark said.
Astranis pointed to a recent third-party study that estimated bringing broadband access to the Philippines, also known as closing the digital divide, would create economic value in the country of over $100 billion by the end of this decade.
Astranis launched its first satellite in May. Its currently preparing to launch two more batches of satellites – which Astranis calls Block 2 and Block 3. Block 2 is launching in the fourth quarter and will feature four satellites, one of of which is for Peru, and Block 3 is launching in mid-2024 and will feature five satellites, one of which is for the Philippines.
The company is one of a number of next-generation broadband satellite systems in development, as companies race to meet a growing global demand for data — including SpaceX's Starlink, British-owned OneWeb, Amazon's Project Kuiper, AST SpaceMobile and others.
But the company's approach marks a unique way of providing broadband service from space, Gedmark has previously said. The company's dishwasher-sized satellite combines the small form factor of satellites such as Starlink in low Earth orbit with the distant, geosynchronous orbit of traditional players such as Viasat.
Geosynchronous orbit, or GEO, is about 22,000 miles away from the planet's surface — a position that allows the spacecraft to stay above a fixed location, matching the Earth's rotation.
Astranis will be able to cover the entire Philippines with this one satellite, Gedmark noted.
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