Converge pilots satellite broadband in West PH Sea

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 05 2023 12:55 PM

A Kymeta antenna used by ComClark for its satellite broadband solution.Handout
A Kymeta antenna used by ComClark for its satellite broadband solution. Handout

MALAY, AKLAN - Converge ICT Solutions Inc said its parent is piloting a satellite communication (SATCOM) on-the-move solution with the Philippine Coast Guard for use on mobile vessels patrolling the West Philippine Sea, its founder and CEO Dennis Anthony Uy said. 

Converge said its parent company ComClark Network Technology Corp made the satellite communication (SATCOM) on-the-move available in the country for the "niche" market including marine vessels, emergency responders and the military. 

The technology provides reliable and secure internet connection on board moving vessels, navy ships or yacths, among others, it added.

Uy said this could also work for fishermen and their ships fishing in areas not covered by fiber internet. 

"Imagine yung Coast Guard, we have a pilot right there, dinedemo ko na ngayon, pinapagamit ko na sa West Philippine Sea para ang communication nila maging stable, pinainstall ko na.... Mas importante meron tayo. What happens on our patrols kung totally wala?," Uy told reporters on the sideline of Converge's fiber service launch in Boracay Island.

ComClark uses the antenna technology from Kymeta, which is a US-based company funded by Bill Gates, said ComClark COO Benedicto Bulatao.

“Satellite internet, by its nature, is expensive but what ComClark offers is a turnkey solution - no need for configuration or drawn out installation of several active components. It’s a plug-and-play solution that only requires powering of the antenna. Additionally, a plus here is that we own the network, so you can be sure the data being exchanged is secure,” Bulatao added. 

To offer the service, it uses a flat panel antenna for receiving and transmitting data from a satellite communicating with the earth station operated by ComClark teleport, Converge said.

Uy, however, admitted that not all could afford this technology at almost $5,000 per month. But there is definitely a demand in the Philippines, an archipelago, where there are hard-to-reach using traditional connectivity means.

"This is more on niche market kasi mahal, satellite is expensive hindi siya mura. Hindi siya makapag compete talaga kung may fiber ka. The usage is totally different. Katulad yung disaster, pag pinatanong mo sasakyan may connection ka na, pag may military operation," he said.

Converge said the flat panel antenna is using Kymeta u8 Hawk, which is a VSAT that is electronically steered and designed for mobility. It is also ready for low-earth orbit (LEO) systems, similar to the technology used by Elon Musk's Starlink.

Uy earlier said his company was in talks with SpaceX and its LEO satellite broadband service called Starlink for a potential collaboration. 

Starlink announced its availability in the Philippines in early 2023 after working with the government to secure the necessary permits and a partnership with billionaire Henry Sy Jr. 

When asked if a Converge - SpaceX partnership is still on the table, Uy said it could still be done in areas unreachable by fiber connectivity.
In terms of traditional fiber connection, Converge said it has almost 60 percent coverage nationwide, exceeding its target of covering 55 percent of homes this year. 

Uy said the company has so far spent over P100 billion in capex for building its fiber backbone in the country as well in network infrastructure investments including subsea cables and landing stations. 


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