PLDT Inc. and its wireless communications and digital services subsidiary Smart are examining the potential of space-based cellular satellites to expand its mobile broadband coverage in the Philippines, specifically in far-flung areas of the archipelago.

As part of this new venture, Smart recently inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with AST SpaceMobile Inc., which is a US-based company that’s building a cellular network in space.

The Head of Technology at PLDT and Smart, Mario Tamayo, said the move will enable them to broaden their reach and fill in the gap in service, particularly for regions experiencing connection problems.

“This innovative space-based cellular broadband communication connects directly to our cellphones; no special device is needed. As a supplement to our mobile coverage, this can fill the gap in providing our services to the deepest rural and remote areas in the country, so our customers can remain connected,” Tamayo explained.

Tamayo adds that their partnership with AST will also boost their 4G and 5G rollout in the country, which will be of benefit to their large Filipino consumer base. It’s expected to serve students undertaking distance learning in hard-to-reach locations, provide e-commerce and online banking opportunities for indigenous people living in the mountains, and be of service to Filipinos out at sea.

According to Arvin Siena, Head of Technology Strategy and Transformation Office at PLDT and Smart, compared to GEO satellites, the Low-Earth Orbit satellites of AST SpaceMobile are significantly closer to earth at around 700 kilometers, delivering higher bandwidth with lower latency and communicate with regular smartphones.

Chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile Abel Avellan noted that the partnership will offer affordable broadband cellular access to the unconnected.

Smart President Alfredo Panlilio said the MOU will bring them closer to their goal of connecting the rest of the Philippines to the Internet and significantly improve their customers’ user experience.

“This collaboration between Smart and AST SpaceMobile strongly supports this vision, as we continue to invest in our networks and explore the most relevant innovations that will enable us to continue expanding the reach of our services alongside delivering exceptional customer experience across the Philippines’s more than 7,000 islands,” Panlilio explained.

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Image credit: PLDT’s Official Facebook Page