The Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology is currently processing the operation license submitted by Starlink, Elon Musk’s low-orbit satellite project, in Indonesia. This development will further intensify the competition in the internet market in Indonesia.
Denny Setiawan, the Director of Postal Device Resources and Informatics at the Ministry, emphasized this during a discussion on “700 MHz and 26 GHz Spectrum Auction, Efforts to Drive 5G Penetration” in Jakarta on November 13, 2023. According to him, Starlink’s technology has its advantages.
Starlink’s potential as a low-orbit satellite is seen as positive in helping to meet internet access needs in remote areas. Beyond the areas known as “3T” (underdeveloped, frontline, and outermost areas), there are still numerous spots in 1,000 regencies/cities that are either blank spots or have no telecommunication signal coverage.
Starlink has been present in the Indonesian market through a collaboration with Telkomsat, a subsidiary of Telkom. Telkomsat was granted docking rights for Starlink. Therefore, all Starlink-based services sold by Telkomsat are based on backhaul for business consumers.
Satelit Starlink milik SpaceX
Starlink is designed as a low-orbit satellite at an altitude of 550 kilometers, forming a mega-constellation consisting of 42,000 satellites. The services provided by Starlink are internet access services. This refers to the services provided by telecommunications operators to the general public to access the internet, whether through mobile phones or fixed-line phones at home or in the office.
Starlink needs to comply with the regulations stated in the Telecommunications Law Number 36 of 1999 and its derivatives, such as Government Regulation Number 52 of 2000 on Telecommunication Providers and Minister of Communication and Information Technology Regulation Number 13 of 2019 on Telecommunication Services.
Denny mentioned that OneWeb, another low-orbit satellite, has already collaborated with existing telecommunications operators in Indonesia, particularly with DTP. DTP has gateways in Indonesia. OneWeb already has 634 satellites orbiting the Earth, with approximately 18 satellites estimated to be in Indonesian skies. One of the concerns after the emergence of low-orbit satellites is Indonesia’s digital sovereignty.
Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin met with Elon Musk in the United States on August 4, 2023. Budi represented the Indonesian Government in exploring cooperation for providing internet access in underdeveloped, frontline, and outermost areas, including remote primary healthcare centers (puskesmas).
Sigit Puspito Wigati Jarot, the Chairman of the National Telematics Society’s National Infrastructure Division, stated that the technology offered by Starlink had initially raised concerns among incumbent telecommunications industry players. For instance, in Slovakia, the transmission speed from Starlink’s satellite to the ground station has exceeded 5G. The latency or data delivery delay level of Starlink is equivalent to 3G and 4G cellular access technologies.
In other words, if mobile telecommunications operators want to compete with Starlink’s internet access services, they must have strong network infrastructure. Otherwise, consumers will be more inclined to choose Starlink’s services.
Sigit added that with the technological advantages of low-orbit satellites like Starlink, the government should regulate their operations, especially if they engage in retail sales. If Starlink’s internet access service, for example, is sold through a business-to-business mechanism (B2B), there wouldn’t be any issues as it can complement the services offered by telecommunications operators.
Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, a telecommunications company, is reportedly cooperating with OneWeb. However, there haven’t been serious discussions about this matter according to CEO Vikram Sinha. The company is open to working with both low-orbit and geostationary satellite operators to ensure the best internet access services for its customers.