TAMPA, Fla. — Astranis has sold a small broadband satellite launching to geostationary orbit next year to a telco in the Philippines looking for support from the country’s government, the Californian manufacturer announced July 11.
Orbits Corp, the satellite services arm of Philippine internet service provider HTechCorp, plans to sell at least some of the capacity to the government to help connect up to two million people across 5,000 remote and rural communities in the archipelago.
Only 11,000 of the country’s 42,000 local communities are covered by fiber, and the government has identified many of those left unconnected as Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA).
The Philippines has made connecting GIDA communities a major priority, Astranis CEO John Gedmark said, and the companies are seeking ways to help the government bring internet to areas where people make less than $5,000 a year on average.
“Most of the internet penetration in the Philippines is confined to the metropolitan areas,” said Atty Augusto Baculio, a former legislator for the Philippines who now leads Orbits Corp.
“Outside of that, going to the inner villages, over mountains, across islands — that’s when you have intermittent access to connectivity, or none at all.”
The companies did not disclose government commitments or financial details about a satellite they say would be the first dedicated to providing internet services to the country.
Last year, the Philippines permitted SpaceX to provide services from its global Starlink broadband network in low Earth orbit to help bridge the country’s digital divide.
Astranis operates its satellites on behalf of customers, who lease the capacity over their eight-year lifetimes.
At around 400 kilograms, the company’s dishwasher-sized satellites are smaller than typical geostationary spacecraft that weigh thousands of kilograms and are scaled for smaller, regional coverage.
The satellite for the Philippines is one of five slated to launch together in 2024 on a dedicated rocket Astranis has not disclosed. A pair of satellites for Mexican telco Apco Networks is joining this mission, which Astranis calls Block 3, and customers for the other two remain undisclosed.
Later this year, Astranis is slated to deploy four satellites on a dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 mission as part of Block 2. It has only revealed customers for three of these: two satellites for
First deal following inaugural launch
Eight-year-old Astranis launched its debut satellite April 30 as a secondary payload to a SpaceX Falcon Heavy carrying the 6,400-kilogram ViaSat-3 broadband satellite to orbit.
Called Arcturus, this inaugural satellite was sold to Alaska-based telco Pacific Dataport Inc., meaning Astranis has disclosed customers for seven of the 10 satellites it says are on order.
Gedmark said May 24 that Arcturus was performing at speeds of around 9 gigabits per second (Gbps) in early tests, despite being specced for 7.5 Gbps. The company, which had expected at the time to have completed calibration and health checks by mid-June so the satellite could enter service, declined to give an update on its roll-out.