Ka-band satellite technology to bring stable connectivity to schools in Mindanao

FILIPINOS love the internet. In fact, a recent report ranked the Philippines second on the list of countries whose people spend the most time on the internet. Still, when the lockdown forced life to move online, students in many rural areas of the country had to climb trees and even mountains to seek an internet connection. While they’re also digital natives, traveling to other barangays is just another day in their lives, and all so that they can submit assignments online or conduct research.

Three years ago, the Asia Foundation revealed a startling result — only 26 percent of public schools in the country are connected to the internet, or are able to do so. As remote learning won’t seem to be ending soon, internet connectivity has become a prerequisite. Without internet access, teachers, staff and students in rural areas are completely excluded and left behind.

To bridge the gap between digital haves and have-nots in the Mindanao region, Access Mindanao, a university-led regional development program, successfully used Ka-band satellite technology.

Program leader, Dr. Rogel Mari Sese, chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the Ateneo de Davao University, said the program aims to improve the quality of life for remote and isolated areas in the region via fast and affordable satellite connectivity. As soon as schools have internet access, they become digital hubs for their communities. Students can study and research online, while teachers and administrators can use online teaching tools, as well as enroll students in and conduct examinations.

Satellite technology is well-suited to connecting the Philippines with its 7,640 islands, because unlike other connectivity types, it does not rely on large expensive cell towers or extensive fiber cable networks. Satellite broadband can be used to connect people who live in more remote and mountainous locations, as it simply relies on having a clear line of sight. Plenty of well-known telcos are not present in rural, remote areas, as it’s too expensive to reach the smaller population groups. This leads to the absence of reliable connectivity.

Access Mindanao chose satellite internet from Kacific because it was the best option that met the project’s connectivity requirements and allowed it to expand the number of sites supported. Kacific provides services from Kacific1, a ka-band satellite that uses concentrated spot beams to bring reliable, high-speed broadband internet to rural populations via easy-to-install 1.2m antennas. With speeds of up to 100 mbps, the Ka-band connection is fast enough to make video calls, and upload images, files and videos.

In 2014, Ka-band was called “the future of space communication” by NASA because it has data transmission rates that are hundreds of times faster than lower spectrum bands. That leads to much faster speeds at a more affordable price. One issue scientists had to solve was ‘rain fade;’ a phenomenon where heavy rain affects the signal from space. A range of technologies have been developed to combat rain fade for ka-band satellites, and these satellites are becoming popular choices by governments and private companies across the world to deliver affordable and reliable internet access to under-served communities.

Today more than ever, accessible and affordable connectivity can fast-track young people’s access to educational resources and potentially life-changing opportunities. Ka-band satellite internet is proving to be a promising solution to support digital inclusion in the Philippines.

Local internet service provider, Bambunet powered by Kloche Communications distributes Kacific ka-band service in the Visayan Islands. Call Bambunet on (0998) 555 3243 or visit www.bambunet.com. SPONSORED CONTENT.

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