Internet connectivity in the time of COVID-19

Project Result / Case Study | 25 February 2021

Asia-Pacific - On 17 December 2019, the Kacific1 communications satellite was launched by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, USA. The satellite has been fully operational since March 2020. Now over a year in orbit, Kacific1 provides low-cost, high-speed, reliable broadband internet in remote and far-flung communities across the Asia and Pacific region. 

Built to last an estimated 15 years, Kacific1 is the product of a partnership between ADB, Singapore-based satellite operator Kacific Broadband Satellites International Limited, and other partners. Its reach includes Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, and the Pacific island nations of Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. 

Partnership with the private sector 

In 2019, ADB signed a loan agreement with Kacific Broadband Satellites International Limited to build, launch, and operate Kacific1. The loan, ADB’s Regional: Asia-Pacific Remote Broadband Internet Satellite Project, is a $50-million financing comprising a $25 million loan from ADB’s own resources and a $25 million parallel loan from the ADB-administered Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP), supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). This is ADB’s first venture in satellite financing. 

The project would bring internet connections to remote rural areas where no or very limited internet coverage is currently available. 

Science behind satellites 

Kacific1 follows a geostationary orbit—it maintains the same position relative to the earth, for easy alignment of ground antennas and satellite dishes. It hovers over the Asia Pacific region, and follows the same direction and matches the same speed as the earth’s rotation. 

Kacific1 is a next generation, high throughput satellite—it can stream low-cost broadband via 56 powerful spot beams supporting 5G speeds. The satellite reaches over 25 countries in the Asia Pacific, from the mountains of Nepal to fringe islands in archipelagic Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean. 

Ground satellite antennas or teleport gateways connect Kacific1 to land-based internet connections. The gateways have been installed in three existing teleport sites in Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, which are tailored for broadcast, data, and communications services. Kacific offers wholesale satellite broadband internet services to telecommunication operators, internet service providers, and governments across the region. 

Kacific over the Pacific 

To date, Kacific 1 has demonstrated the value of universal, affordable, and high-quality broadband access in the region. 

To assist Asia Pacific governments cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Kacific announced in March 2020 that it is offering over 1,000 small satellite dishes, at no cost, to healthcare departments to rapidly connect rural and remote medical clinics to high-speed internet.  

In May, Kacific supported Vanuatu in boosting the country’s capacity to provide a reliable communications network in the wake of disasters. The partnership aims to connect remote and outer islands, including parts of Vanuatu where existing telecommunications networks were destroyed by Cyclone Harold in April. 

In July, Kacific and Tuvalu signed a five-year agreement to provide high-speed broadband internet that would connect agencies, businesses, and communities across Tuvalu’s nine islands. Kacific’s services, through a dedicated high-throughput beam over Tuvalu’s Exclusive Economic Zone, will connect the capital and the Outer Islands of Tuvalu to a high-quality communications infrastructure. 

In December, Kacific worked with the Papua New Guinea government in digitizing the judiciary by providing internet connectivity to court offices and facilities and introducing judiciary services on electronic-based platforms.  

Last mile connection 

More than 2 billion people have yet to enjoy the benefits of broadband internet connections in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly those in areas not reached by fiber optic or mobile phone networks. For people in remote areas, the hope of finally getting connected to the Internet rests on satellite services. But such services, where available, can be too costly for the poor. 

Kacific1 has been very effective in reaching the last mile of internet access, connecting remote areas that often lack public services, particularly health services. In July 2020, Kacific received the IJGlobal 2019 Telecoms Deal of the Year award for the Asia Pacific in recognition of the excellent commitment of investors and financial supporters, including ADB. IJGlobal (Infrastructure Journal and Project Finance Magazine) provides market leading intelligence for the energy and infrastructure finance industry. 

At this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet connectivity is more crucial than ever. Demand for internet connections has escalated in 2020. To meet present and future internet demand, Kacific is getting ready to launch Kacific2 to complement Kacific1 and add capacity to Indonesia, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea, and to emerging markets to help ensure that internet connectivity is available to all.