Chile’s regulator, the Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones (Subtel), says the first deployments of the satellite broadband service will be available to schools in Caleta Sierra and Sotomo
For many years, satellite broadband connectivity was considered something of a novelty by the global telecoms community, if not simply an outright failure. The expense of launching numerous satellites into orbit, coupled with the relatively poor service they could deliver to customers, meant that these solutions were widely overlooked in favour of alternative infrastructure deployments, even in the most hard-to-reach areas.
Now, however, the landscape is changing. Satellite broadband technology is becoming more viable, offering much higher quality connectivity, and launches at scale are no longer as bank-breaking as they once were. SpaceX’s Starlink is perhaps the most well known of these deployments, with around 1,700 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites already in orbit, with goals of achieving global coverage within the next month.
However, Starlink is far from alone. The UK’s OneWeb recently secured an additional $500 million in funding from Bharti Global, theoretically giving it the funds to launch a constellation with a global reach, while Amazon’s $10 billion Project Kuiper already has permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 3,236 satellites.
One of the largest advantages of these constellations is their broad reach and ability to overcome issues of difficult geography, delivering services to areas where traditional infrastructure deployment would be economically unfeasible. With this in mind, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Chile has now been announced as the first country in Latin America to begin making use of the Starlink constellation.
Chile spans some 2,700 miles across the west coast of South America and contains some of the most challenging terrain in the world, from a vast desert to the north, to the peaks of the Andes that rise to 22,600 feet above sea level. In this environment, deploying fibre or wireless connectivity can be difficult, especially for rural communities.
As a result, Chile’s regulator, Subtel, has announced that the government has partnered with Starlink to explore the feasibility of conducting pilot projects in rural and isolated communities. Starlink will initially deliver connectivity to schools in Caleta Sierra (Coquimbo region) and Sotomo (Los Lagos region), with plans to extend this coverage if the trials prove successful.
Starlink will provide the schools with broadband speeds of between 50Mbps and 150Mbps for one year, noting that the connectivity should improve access to telemedicine and online education services.
“Sometimes our geography makes the deployment of traditional broadband networks complex. For this reason, we are proud that the Starlink company has chosen Chile as a pioneer country in Latin America to begin the deployment of its satellite internet project, providing capacity and high-speed connectivity to two locations in the country,” said Chile’s Minister of Transport and Telecommunications, Gloria Hutt.
How is satellite connectivity impacting the digital divide for rural communities? Find out from the experts at this year’s Total Telecom Congress
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