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Dr. William Lim, Executive Director and CFO, Dr. Sean Seah, Executive Chairman & CEO

As a fundamental public necessity, the importance of the internet was showcased to the world with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without this indispensable connectivity to information around the world, a ‘digital divide’ is witnessed among the masses, which has not only caused productivity issues but has also given birth to several socio-economic concerns worldwide.

According to the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the digital divide among the 4.3 billion people living in the APAC region is widening, with almost 52 percent of the population still deprived of well-functioning internet access. More importantly, this ‘deprivation of the internet’ is primarily concentrated in the rural and remote areas due to a lack of infrastructure and investment, paving the way for societal inequalities. Nevertheless, many foresighted organizations are taking the torch to bridge this ‘digital divide’ in rural areas; at the forefront of these efforts is ANGKASA-X—a technological-social inclusion company striving to provide internet connectivity for all and usher in a sustainable future.

To achieve the goal of disruption-free internet connectivity, the company partners with various organizations for research and development, intellectual property (IP) creation, components sourcing and testing, and assembly of state-of-the-art Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) satellites. ANGKASA-X envisages setting up an A-SEANLINK satellite constellation with an estimated 500 LEO satellites to offer satellite-based internet service for the rural and remote areas in the APAC region. “Our vision is to create a world where internet connectivity is looked upon as a basic necessity, not a luxury,” underscores Dr. William Lim, Executive Director and CFO of ANGKASA-X. “It doesn’t matter if it is the rich or poor, or if they are living in urban or rural areas, we aim to introduce total digital equality and inclusivity by making the internet accessible and affordable to everyone.”

Fighting the Internet Connectivity Concerns with LEO Satellites

The biggest hindrance to high-speed internet connectivity is the topography of the Asian region. The region is home to some of the densest tropical rain forests, highest mountains, islands, and deserts. Hence, telcos find it arduous to build on-ground fiber infrastructure and facilitate internet connectivity for the rural and remote population. Besides, unlike the urban population, the rural and remote areas are sparsely populated. People in these areas are housed in small pockets, making the availability of fiber networks across these areas highly cost-inefficient for the telcos. Not to mention the unavailability of skilled workers and skyrocketing logistics costs, which makes maintenance of fiber network infrastructure extremely complex for the telcos. Dr. Lim highlights that, in such cases, LEO satellites are the only connectivity option for such rural and distant communities.

To this end, the ANGKASA-X team will extend a dedicated satellite infrastructure through various Satellite as a Service (SaaS) models for the telcos and help them cater to end consumers’ internet needs in the APAC region. The benefit for telcos’ is that they can go up and running without a heavy infrastructure set-up or maintenance cost like a traditional terrestrial fiber network or even a substantial upfront CAPEX investment. Telcos can provide low-latency, high bandwidth internet services within a very reasonable price range.

To fulfill its promise of seamless internet connectivity to rural areas, ANGKASA-X is devoted to developing containerized data centers with its satellite services in various parts of Southeast Asia to transform the rural area into small e-villages. The company will also be offering mobile edge data centers for faster data processing.

The mobile data centers, along with ANGKASA-X’s LEO satellites and containerized data centers, will expedite digital transformation in the rural communities, providing them equal opportunities similar to urban residents.

For instance, people can set up e-commerce sites, sell their products online, and easily ship them to the city. On the other hand, graduate students can benefit from uninterrupted internet connectivity, land a decent job, and stay connected with their employers, all without relocating to an urban dwelling. Above all, as the rural populace mostly consists of people from the lower-income group, ANGKASA-X will be offering basic internet amenities at a very affordable entry price point to help them elevate their living standards. “We are not here to provide connectivity as a luxury; instead, our focus is on offering necessary internet services at an affordable price point for a sustainable future,” asserts Dr. Sean Seah, Executive Chairman & CEO at ANGKASA-X. However, the company can extend luxury services such as streaming Netflix or music on Spotify at a relatively higher price point. Further, the company is localizing the production of the subcomponents of satellites in Malaysia to build a sustainable business model and offer low-cost internet services for its subscribers.

A Variety of Benefits

Besides offering exceptional internet connectivity satellite services for the rural and remote population, ANGKASA-X’s clients can also avail LEO satellites for a range of other services. For instance, for telcos that concentrate on delivering Internet of Things (IoT) services in rural and remote locations, the existing fiber networks and 5G services, despite offering low latency, fail due to the high infrastructural costs involved. However, ANGKASA-X’s LEO satellite will facilitate specialized IoT connectivity for the telcos, providing seamless IoT connectivity to their end customers. In addition, the company will also offer a gateway for telcos that could feature a radio frequency chip, which will directly transmit data to its satellites in real-time.

Another noteworthy service by ANGKASA-X will be the Automatic Identification services (AIS) to ensure seamless logistics services to the proliferating e-commerce players in the Southeast Asian region. Through its AIS satellite infrastructure, the company will enable the tracking of shipments by detecting maritime and navigational sea vessels. “We have dedicated a satellite with a payload service to give our clients around the clock tracking of their shipments,” informs Dr. Seah. Further, as many shipping vessels travel across Southeast Asia, especially through the Straits of Malacca—one of the busiest and most risky shipping routes in the world— the company offers the Earth observation (EO) satellite as a service for accurate tracking of the shipping vessels. The EO satellite has a special high-powered resolution multispectral camera that can take clear images of the designated area, allowing clients to check for any oil spillage in the shipping vessels and address the issue before it becomes a catastrophe.

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Moreover, as Southeast Asia is close to the Ring of Fire, the Earth observation satellite as a service can help detect landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and forest fires, which can help prevent any untoward incidents in the region. Additionally, as the LEO satellite of ANGKASA-X will be approximately 500 kilometers away from the earth, it can help farmers monitor their plantations and prove to be a boon for disaster recovery services. “With our constellation of LEO satellites circling over the Southeast Asia region, we should be able to provide a real-time image as and when required,” briefly elucidates Dr. Lim.

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Finally, to receive radio frequency signals from the satellite, ANGKASA-X is developing ground stations in various countries around the Southeast Asia region. These ground stations will also provide hosting services for the telcos with their satellites in space. “We will be performing much deeper analysis on the flight of our satellites to ensure that the ground stations are appropriately placed at the correct location to maximize the capturing of data from the passing satellite,” mentions Dr. Lim.

With these unwavering services, ANGKASA-X is only poised to continue on a growth trajectory to expand its horizon and accommodate more innovative opportunities and ideas. ANGKASA-X has already finished developing its first LEO test satellite, and the company is planning to launch it by partnering with an ideal launching service provider end 2022. The company estimates to invest 8-10 years on its A-SEANLINK satellite constellation project.

Forging ahead for the future, ANGKASA-X is developing security applications by employing specialized synthetic aperture radar to monitor connectivity across the entire Southeast Asian region irrespective of bad weather. This advancement will enable the company to pre-empt any pirate attack and alert the concerned authorities. ANGKASA-X’s future ventures include developing multi-spot-beam satellite communication systems, which is important to enhance bandwidth and connectivity during peak hours. The communication system will ensure seamless connectivity during festivals and other celebrations when network usage spikes suddenly. “ANGKASA-X’s developing technology can largely help telecom companies in such culturally-rich countries stay closer to their roots and the world wide web at the same time,” concludes Dr. Seah.