MANILA - PLDT Inc on Thursday said it would test a space-based cellular broadband technology along with its wireless unit Smart Communications and US-based partner AST SpaceMobile.
Smart and AST SpaceMobile presented their plans to conduct tests of AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite during a recent meeting with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission, PLDT said in a statement.
AST SpaceMobile’s BlueWalker 3 satellite is being designed to communicate directly with unmodified mobile phones from low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite, it added.
PLDT said Smart would be the first to test the technology in the Philippines.
The digital divide is a "massive concern" in the country, especially in remote and disadvantaged areas, said DICT Acting Secretary Emmanuel Rey “Manny” Caintic.
"Fortunately, newer technologies in satellites are capable of providing much-needed cellular connectivity with more flexibility in their deployment," Caintic said.
"LEO satellites are an excellent addition to our solution set as they offer low latency, high throughput internet to our GIDAs, and AST SpaceMobile’s technology which is being designed to directly connect to ordinary smartphones could be a game-changer," he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte in March signed a measure that expanded the access of internet service providers to satellite systems.
Smart in July 2021 signed a memorandum of understanding with AST SpaceMobile to bring the technology to the Philippines.
PLDT said it also earlier tested on-orbit high-speed broadband connectivity with Telesat of Canada's Phase 1 LEO satellite.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk's SpaceX and its low-earth orbit satellite broadband technology called Starlink are setting up shop in the Philippines as confirmed by the Department of Trade and Industry.