Chunghwa Telecom Co yesterday said it is exploring partnerships with low Earth orbit satellite service providers led by Elon Musk’s Starlink project to offer diverse services and enhance its Internet coverage beyond 5G broadband technology.
“There are several non-geostationary orbit satellite systems under development globally, with Starlink taking the lead. Chunghwa Telecom does not rule out seeking exchanges and cooperation with those international operators,” the company said in a statement.
It would comply with the government’s satellite services regulations and evaluate further collaboration opportunities, it said.
The nation’s biggest telecom said it is paying attention to the development of next-generation technologies for geosynchronous orbit satellites, low Earth orbit satellites, and beyond-5G and 6G connectivity.
Among those, low Earth orbit satellite technology has the potential to help the company diversify its services and supplement terrestrial 5G infrastructure to boost its network coverage, the statement said.
Chunghwa Telecom made the announcement after the Chinese-language Commercial Times yesterday reported that the company is to launch a satellite service with Starlink next year at the earliest.
Starlink, a division of US rocket supplier SpaceX, provides Internet access via satellites that are more than 60 times closer to Earth than traditional satellites, resulting in lower latency and the ability to support services typically not possible with traditional satellites, particularly in remote areas.
Starlink has so far signed up 9,000 users in 12 countries, CNBC reported early this month.
Chunghwa Telecom chairman Hsieh Chi-mao (謝繼茂) told the Commercial Times that Starlink and the telecom have begun preparations to launch the service in Taiwan to ensure that satellite communications do not interfere with the transmission of 5G signals.
The telecom must first secure approval from the National Communications Commission (NCC) before it can offer Starlink services to local customers, NCC Vice Chairman and spokesman Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) told the Taipei Times.
“We have to check the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ Radio Frequency Supply Plan (無線電頻譜供應計畫) and Table of Radio Frequency Allocations (頻率分配表),” Wong said.
“Once the ministry has assigned a certain frequency and bandwidth to be used for a low Earth orbit satellite communication, the telecom would have to submit a business plan on how the service is to be offered to local customers,” Wong said.
According to the latest Radio Frequency Supply Plan, which was published early this month, the government is to release the frequencies of 10,700-12,700 megahertz (MHz), 14,000-14,500MHz, 17,700-20,200MHz, 27,500-27,900MHz and 29,500-30,000MHz for low Earth orbit and synchronous satellite communication in the initial stage.
International satellite service providers would be able to form partnerships with local telecoms that hold spectrum at the frequency band of 28 gigahertz.
SpaceX launched a trial for the Starlink service in October last year, offering satellite Internet access at US$99 per month.
Nevada-based Aerkomm Inc last year filed an application with the NCC to offer a low Earth orbit satellite service in Taiwan and was asked to present a more detailed business plan.
In related news, telecoms that qualify for a government subsidy program would soon receive NT$9.92 billion (US$356.67 million) to be spent on 5G infrastructure.
The funding is part of a five-year incentive program announced by the Executive Yuan last year to reward telecoms that accelerate installations of 5G base stations.
Qualifying telecoms would be given a total subsidy of NT$26.6 billion in the next five years for the construction of base stations, according to the program.
Telecoms would be granted subsidies if they build more base stations than they have promised in their business plans. The more they exceeded their goals, the more government funding they would receive, according to the program.
The NCC is to announce next month telecoms that qualify for the funding.
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