At 8:45pm EST on February 21 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched into the night sky. Its payload included the Israeli Beresheet lunar lander, an experimental US Air Force microsatellite and the Indonesian internet satellite Nusantara Satu.
Also known as PSN-6, this satellite occupied 4 tons of the Falcon 9’s 7-ton capacity. It was created by the US-based space system company SSL for Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN), an Indonesian satellite operator and telecommunications company. The construction of the satellite cost $230 million, 70% of which was funded by the Canadian state-owned company Export Development Canada. SSL was the architect of the rideshare arrangement with US-based launch rideshare company Spaceflight Inc., which halved the cost of sending PSN-6 to space.
PSN-6 is PSN’s first new satellite in a decade. With its capacity of 15,000 megabits per second (Mbps), it promises to reach over 25 million rural Indonesians living predominantly in the eastern region of the country. Satellite technology is an effective way of overcoming Indonesia’s infrastructural limitations when it comes to expanding internet access to more inaccessible areas such as the nation’s 6000 inhabited islands. As Adi Rahman Adiwoso, Chief Executive Officer of PSN said, this will advance the company’s aspiration to “improve lives and create new opportunities for economic growth in remote regions of Indonesia."
Indonesian infrastructure still requires much development before many can enjoy internet connectivity. In 2017, only 54.68% of the population was online, with over half of Indonesians in rural-urban and rural areas without access. Additionally, a 2018 Asian Development Bank Evaluation indicated that Indonesia’s infrastructure needs were estimated in 2012 to be $56 billion per year. Due to geographical barriers in implementing fixed broadband infrastructure, wireless internet offered by cellular operators has proliferated. As such, Indonesian consumers rely predominantly on cheaper mobile phone technologies to access the web. 2017 World Bank data shows that for every 100 Indonesians, there are 173.84 mobile subscriptions, but only 2.29 fixed broadband subscriptions.
Though internet coverage will be expanded, the speed available to PSN satellite internet users is expected to be just 3Mpbs, which is significantly slower than the Indonesian average speed of 7.2Mbps. Additionally, PSN rates for remote areas are $7.16 per gigabyte (GB) compared to 30GB for $2.15 on the most populous island of Java.
PSN-6 enters service in April and is expected to connect 5 million Indonesians to the internet by the end of the year. 70-75% of the satellite’s capacity has already been sold, with the Indonesian government accounting for 50% of this.
Jesse Park is participant of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. He is studying a Bachelor of International and Global Studies and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney.