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DITO prepares to pilot-test low Earth orbit satellite this year

DITO Telecommunity Corp. is expecting to finalize a deal that will allow it to start this year pilot testing low Earth orbit (LEO), a satellite technology that can offer connectivity for far-flung areas.

The deal is with OneWeb Network Access Associates Ltd., a London-based company backed by the United Kingdom government and India’s Bharti Enterprises Ltd.

“It is not yet finalized. We are expecting it to be finalized as soon as possible. Our talks with them are already in the advanced stage, it is more of checking whether [everything’s] okay and the commercial rates,” DITO Chief Technology Officer Rodolfo D. Santiago said.

The expenses for LEO satellite are expected to be a bit more expensive, he said, adding that the companies have yet to discuss in detail how these will be divided.

“It has not been talked about in detail. It’s costly compared to fiber and microwave. But in terms of other satellite technology, the LEO technology is better because it has lower latency and it has higher capacity,” Mr. Santiago said.

Mr. Santiago said DITO is also in talks with other companies that offer different solutions.

“We are also talking with other satellite companies that have sent their offer,” he said.

“There are other satellite companies that have a different technology like geostationary. We are also looking into that. In fact, I think there will be a discussion on its proof of concept for pilot testing to check if it’s okay,” he added.

A geostationary satellite or an Earth-orbiting satellite is placed at an altitude of approximately 35,800 kilometers (km), while a LEO satellite is normally placed at an altitude of around 1,000 km above Earth.

According to Mr. Santiago, areas like the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi will benefit from the rollout of satellite connectivity.

“But even here in Luzon and Visayas, there are off-grid places like those in the mountainous areas in the north, how will you connect them?,” he said.

OneWeb’s network is composed of 648 satellites along 12 synchronized orbital planes 1,200 km above Earth. — Justine Irish D. Tabile

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