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Philippine satellite comms market still viable

Satellite communications services can provide local miners guaranteed broadband access in areas not covered by GSM networks, says Inmarsat.
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Written by Joel D. Pinaroc, Contributor on

PHILIPPINES--Despite the dominance of cellular mobile networks in the country, the Philippines is still a viable market for satellite-powered communications services, according to Inmarsat.

One such market is the Philippine mining industry, which continues to grow at a fast pace despite a hovering gloomy economic horizon, said Noemie de Rozieres, account manager at London-based Inmarsat, in an interview Wednesday with ZDNet Asia.

"Inmarsat sees the mining industry as one of the industries that will continue to invest on wireless communications," de Rozieres said.

She noted the satellite communications company is now heightening its attention in the Asian country. "Yes, this is the first time we are going specifically into the Philippines," she said, adding that Inmarsat previously had an existing deal with the dominant carrier Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT).

She declined to disclose details or updates regarding the agreement, saying only that PLDT's satellite services, called PLDT ASeS, were deployed on one of Inmarsat's satellites.

She added that Inmarsat "has got substantial interests" from Philippine mining companies, particularly the three biggest players in the market.

Inmarsat recently conducted a conference and workshop in Manila on its latest satellite services, which the company claimed attracted more than 30 large companies, mostly from the mining industry. Inmarsat hosted the conference with Singapore-based Vizada, one of its partners in Asia.

Vivian Quenet, chief representative of Vizada, said the company is expecting to clinch a deal in a "few weeks' time" with two Philippine mining companies.

Quenet said the mining firms are particularly interested in Inmarsat's broadband global area network or BGAN, a service that provides Internet access as well as a range of mobile communications services that include voice and SMS. BGAN is a box that serves as an access terminal, connecting to a user's mobile phone and PC.

The Vizada executive said the box can also provide "guaranteed" bandwidth, depending on the BGAN model and the service arrangement between Inmarsat and the customer.

He noted that while GSM-based networks dominate the Philippines, some areas of the archipelago remains "uncovered" and some mining companies need pipes that can ensure quality bandwidth.

Deploying BGAN in these places, Quenet said, allows a mining personnel to send files, make voice calls, and send other information without depending on the GSM network or any other existing infrastructure.

According to Inmarsat, once a signal is detected, a typical BGAN terminal can support 10 to 11 users, though these users will have to share the available bandwidth.

Mining rosy forecasts
Investment in the local mining industry, meanwhile, is expected to rise, according to industry group Business Monitor International (BMI).

A report from BMI released July said levels of mining developments in the Philippines are rising, with the market expected to see an estimated US$1.4 billion in foreign investments between 2004 and 2008.

The figure is expected to rise to US$9 billion by 2011, BMI said. The report also forecast that the Philippines mining industry will grow at a yearly rate of 6.4 percent.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.


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