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Starlink revolution: Guam telecom subscribers migrating to satellite system 




 By Noelle Babauta

 

After doing his research and reading some reviews of Starlink's performance, Jun Amaguin of Yigo decided to give it a shot. “My neighbor also played a role in my decision. He kept raving about how fast it was and how easy it was to set up,” said Amaguin, now a Starlink subscriber.

 

Several Guam residents have been grumbling about what they described as poor service provided by the three carriers on Guam. Typhoon Mawar has exacerbated the situation after knocking down the island’s telecommunication infrastructure and cutting phone lines and internet service, which took several weeks to get back online and months to stabilize.

 

Touted to be SpaceX’s answer to providing global, high-speed internet coverage, Starlink offers a promising option for Guam users.

 

Several Guam residents have left their carriers for Starlink, which has become increasingly popular on Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands since it became available on the islands in November.

 

“I follow Tesla as a stock investor so I knew about it when version 1 came out. I knew people in the States with that and they said how great it was,” said Robert Bechtelheimer, a resident of Dededo.

 

Starlink is a game-changer in the telecommunications landscape, threatening to give IT&E, Docomo Pacific and GTA a run for their money.


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“As more people in Guam learn more about Starlink's service fee, speed, and reliability, more will move away from the local internet providers,” said Lux Beltran of Dededo. “I believe IT&E, Docomo Pacific, and GTA will have to drastically lower their monthly cost to not lose their market share to Starlink.”

 

New Starlink subscribers said the difference in internet speed is significant compared to the companies that have been on Guam for years.

 

“I switched because I knew the speeds are superior to the island providers. Also, when a typhoon comes through again, I will have internet right after the storm with my backup power,” said Bechtelheimer. “So far it has been more stable than GTA and I can connect to closer servers for things. So the latency is way less overall. As well the upload speeds have been triple that of GTA.”

 

Along with the speed being far better than island providers, Starlink offers a competitive rate. Starlink charges $70 a month, which is less than half GTA’s monthly rate of $145.

 

To get a Starlink subscription, one has to make a one-time investment in the gear and accessories such as a drill bit, antenna, ethernet adapter cord and mounting brackets. The costs of the hardware range from $599 to $750, along with the monthly payment.

 

“Definitely worth it. I was paying $145 for 110 mbps with my service provider,” Amaguin said. “With the start-up kit, accessories, service and ancillary costs to install the system, it pretty much pays for itself after a year.”

 

Starlink uses a constellation of thousands of satellites that orbit close to Earth, creating high-speed internet. The company is operated by SpaceX, an aerospace company owned by Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla and the popular social media network, X.

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According to its website, Starlink’s goal is to provide internet all around the globe, even in countries where it was not previously possible to connect to the internet.

 

“Three years ago today, Starlink connected our first customer with high-speed internet,” the company stated, marking its third anniversary on Oct. 26. “Starlink has grown rapidly since then, delivering high-speed internet to locations all around the world where access has been unreliable, expensive or completely unavailable.”


SpaceX launched its first batch of Starlink satellites in 2019. Adoption of the service has ballooned since then. The company has said Starlink has more than 2 million active customers and is available on all seven continents and in over 60 countries.


In CNMI, the service costs $65 per month on top of $625 for hardware and shipment.

 

According to Starlink Insider, Starlink has been available to residents of both territories through Global Roam tier subscriptions that cost $200 a month.

In September, SpaceX announced plans to build and operate 99 Starlink Gateway stations in 40 U.S. states and territories, including Guam and Puerto Rico.


On May 16, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission granted SpaceX Services temporary authorization for 60 days to operate its fixed earth station in Apra Heights. In another notice dated June 27, 2022, the FCC announced that SpaceX was granted another 60-day authorization to operate in Tumon.

 

In February last year, Stars and Stripes reported that the Air Force was using commercial Starlink satellites to communicate with airmen dispersed across the vast Indo-Pacific.




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