internet in the Philippines

Elon Musk’s Starlink internet makes inroads in remote Philippine areas

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Elon Musk’s Starlink internet makes inroads in remote Philippine areas

A Starlink Internet dish installed on a water tank in Green Charm Farm in the village of Caldong, Sampaloc, Quezon province in May 2023.


(UPDATED) Some agribusiness firms, rural households, diving enterprises, and public schools get access to fast internet as Starlink Philippines gets going

QUEZON, Philippines – In an upland farm in the remote village of Caldong in the town of Sampaloc, Quezon province, farmworker Marcelo Santos can now easily communicate with Candy Soto, head of agribusiness firm, Green Charm Farm, after the latter recently got a Starlink Internet installed in her farm.

From Manila, it takes three to four hours to reach the 7-hectare vegetable farm which produces all-natural products such as lettuce, eggplants, squash, chili and ginger.

Maganda po, nakakachat at natatawagan ko na si Ma’am Candy sa messenger at ‘di na kailangan bumili ng load,” he told Rappler.

(It’s nice, I can now chat and call Ma’am Candy via FB messenger and I don’t have to buy internet load anymore.)

Not only that, due to the fast internet, Marcelo said he and his family can now watch online episodes of Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (KMJS), a popular Philippine public affairs show via YouTube. 

Soto told Rappler that with the fast internet service, she gets fresh data from Santos on the volume of vegetables produced, which has improved distribution and sales of her produce, with less waste. She can now better estimate the volume that will be sold in the province of Rizal, and how much will be left in Quezon province for the local market.  

In addition, with the help of an app, Tapo, she’s now able to monitor the work of farmworkers via a CCTV installed in the farm. Soon, she’ll be putting another CCTV that will help guard against theft. Outsiders have occasionally stolen some of Green Charm Farm’s produce such as eggplants and squash. 

“It’s been a big help since I installed it last May,” Soto said. 

Soto said she had the Starlink antenna installed on top of the water tank on her farm, and it self-oriented in minutes. Starlink says, however, that this is possible only if the antenna has a “clear view of the sky.” It adds that Starlink can withstand extreme cold, heat, heavy rain, and gale force winds. 

Over the past two months, Soto said heavy rain hasn’t disrupted the internet signals in Green Charm Farm.

The drawback

Households and enterprises in remote rural areas in the Philippines now have access to fast internet via Elon Musk’s Starlink – but only if you can afford its steep regular price: P29,320 for the hardware and a monthly fee of P2,700 for the base Residential package. Starlink’s kit comes with an antenna, a WiFi router, cables, and base. 

A rural household in Antipolo City has a Starlink antenna installed on top of a bahay kubo (nipa hut) in July 2023. Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler 

The use of the Residential package is limited to one registered address. For those who want to have portable service, Starlink Roam provides “active coverage” or high-speed internet on an as-needed basis at any destination. This comes at the expense of connection priority. Residential users may get more reliable service even at peak hours while Roam users may see a fluctuation in speeds where there’s high traffic volume.

Roam uses the same hardware and costs the same at P29,320 as Residential, but has a higher monthly fee of P3,300. 

With Roam’s portability, this service may be useful for news organizations that deploy journalists for disaster coverage – volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides – in remote locations.

For other critical applications, Starlink offers higher tier hardware called the Flat High Performance dish, priced at a more expensive P153,942.

Starlink described the product on its website: “With a wide field of view and enhanced GPS capabilities, the Flat High Performance can connect to more satellites, allowing for consistent connectivity on the go. The hardware is designed for permanent installation on your vehicle and is resilient in harsh environments.”

The Flat High Performance dish can be paired with a Starlink Mobility plan for land vehicle use cases including “trucking, buses, shuttles, and emergency response” or Starlink Maritime for use at sea. Both carry a monthly subscription fee of P15,394, with promised download speeds of 220 Megabits per second (Mbps).

Infiniti Liveaboard, an enterprise that offers tours of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tubbataha Reef, has installed Starlink internet on its yacht, which allowed divers to have internet while at sea during a recent trip this year. There’s no phone signal in the world-renowned marine protected area in the Sulu Sea.

Starlink’s services arrived in the Philippines in February 2023. It says it is the “world’s most advanced broadband satellite internet,” and is the “first and largest satellite constellation using a low Earth orbit to deliver high-speed broadband internet” that supports streaming, gaming, video, and calls.  

For some public officials, however, Starlink’s high price is worth it, and perhaps incalculable in terms of making the web accessible to students who go to school in remote areas.

Former journalist-turned-lawmaker, Senator Loren Legarda, for instance, backed the installation of Starlink internet in a school in her home province, Antique, in central Philippines. 

Students in Lacaron Integrated School in the town of Sibalom now enjoy fast internet after a Starlink service was installed in the school last May.

“Before the installation, the school had been experiencing slow internet speeds, limiting the ability to stream videos or support multiple devices. However, after the installation, substantial improvements were observed,” a press release from Legarda’s office said. 

Around 150 users can connect simultaneously to the service. Download speed was rated at 170 Mbps, while upload speeds reached 10.8 Mbps. 

“This significant enhancement enables students and teachers to use seamless video conferencing and stream high-quality videos,” Legarda’s office said. 

It took 4 to 5 hours to install two designated access points, one for teachers and another for the students. 

Nicasio Frio, Department of Education superintendent in Antique, said the installation of Starlink internet bridges “the connectivity gap, allowing more schools to participate in online meetings and seminars, ultimately improving educational opportunities for the students.”

According to Legarda, citing a Modified Learner Enrollment Survey form, only 16% of students had access to mobile internet, and this access does not guarantee a good service.

“This is a huge step towards digital inclusivity for our Filipino students, ensuring that every learner has equal access to quality education, regardless of their location. Through this, we are bridging the digital divide and empowering our students to thrive in the digital era,” Legarda said.

She and her brother, Congressman Antonio Legarda, also installed a Starlink internet at Sta. Ana National High School in Barangay Sta. Ana, Pandan, Antique. The school is located in one of seven Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged barangays in he province.

Prior to the installation, the school relied on a 20 Mbps WiFi connection with download speed of 6.93 Mbps; with Starlink internet, Legarda’s office said initial speed tests showed big improvement with download speed ranging from 217.3 Mbps to 324.97 Mbps. Upload speed went up from 6.49 Mbps to 28.7 Mbps.

PISO WiFi stations in an upland area in Sitio Pulong Banal, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City, Rizal. Composite of photos taken on May 6, 2023. Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler

Most Filipinos in remote areas, however, won’t be able to put up a Starlink internet at their own expense. They usually go to low-cost “sachet” internet stations where they drop coins in a phone booth in order to have internet. These are useful when sending quick emails, but perhaps too costly for streaming, gaming, and video calls. –

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.