Space-based internet startup Astranis inked a new deal to launch and operate a dedicated satellite for the Philippines, which will provide enough bandwidth to connect up to two million people.
Astranis is partnering with satellite services provider Orbits Corp, which will buy the capacity with its sister company HTechCorp., a Philippine internet service provider (ISP). The companies did not disclose the financial details of the contract.
Astranis CEO John Gedmark said in a blog post that the Philippines is a uniquely challenging country to cover with traditional connectivity technologies, like fiber or microwave towers.
“There are over 20 typhoons in the Philippines every year, and given the archipelago’s position in the Ring of Fire, other natural disasters often test the resolve of Filipinos, whether they live in Metro Manila or a rural community like Barangay Caagutayan,” he said. “Fiber lines flood; microwave towers fall over; and often the entire country is left to rely on satellite internet services to remain connected and safe.”
Astranis’ “microGEO” satellite, which will launch in 2024 per the agreement, presents a markedly different solution. While it is tempting to slot Astranis in with other companies that provide satellite internet services, the San Francisco-based startup is taking a different approach, both with its hardware and its product. Astranis operates relatively small satellites at geosynchronous orbit, which is around 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. The benefit of this orbit is that the satellites stay in a fixed position relative to wherever they are pointing, meaning a single satellite can provide continuous access to a large geographical area.
The other major difference is the path to market: Astranis partners with local telecommunications and internet service providers and sells broadband capacity, rather than single subscriptions à la SpaceX’s Starlink. For this reason, the company’s broadband is just as likely to be used to connect hospitals, schools and industrial centers as individual devices.
The new contract with the Philippines marks Astranis’ first partnership in Asia. Among the company’s other announced deals includes a contract to bring service to Alaska and an agreement with a Peruvian service provider for a forthcoming satellite that is expected to connect up to three million people in that country.
Astranis plans on launching four more satellites before the end of this year in a batch that includes the satellite for Peru and two sats for North American customer Anuvu. The satellite for the Philippines will launch next year, along with four other satellites.