On Friday, May 27, Elon Musk announced in a tweet that Starlink, the satellite internet service launched by SpaceX, which provides satellite Internet access coverage to 32 countries where its use has been licensed., has now been approved in Nigeria and Mozambique.
He had announced days before that Starlink will “serve everywhere on Earth that we’re legally allowed to serve” after he said, “first countries in Africa to be announced coming soon.”
The plan to launch Starlink in Africa, especially in Nigeria, has been in the works since 2021.
In May 2021, SpaceX sent some representatives to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s telecommunications regulator, to discuss the possibility of obtaining a license to operate Starlink in Nigeria.
Then, the NCC emphasised that, in light of disruption in the technology world, it is keen on balancing healthy competition with the entry of disruptive technologies to ensure sustainable telecom industry growth and development in Nigeria.
Led by SpaceX’s Starlink Market Access Director for Africa, Ryan Goodnight and supported by the company’s consultant, Levin Born, the company provided an overview of its plans, expectations, licensing requests and deployment phases during the meeting.
After the presentation by SpaceX team, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, NCC, Ubale Maska, who stood in for the EVC, said NCC will work on necessary modalities to ensure that it balances the need for healthy competition vis-a-vis the entry of new technologies, in order to protect all industry stakeholders.
“As the regulator of a highly dynamic sector in Nigeria, the Commission is conscious of the need to ensure that our regulatory actions are anchored on national interest. We have listened to your presentation and we will review it vis-à-vis our regulatory direction of ensuring an effective and sustainable telecoms ecosystem where a licensee’s operational model does not dampen healthy competition among other licensees,” Maska told the SpaceX delegation.
According to Nairametrics, NCC says Starlink received two licenses, including the International Gateway license and Internet Service Provider (ISP) license, and will be trading as Starlink Internet Services Nigeria Ltd.
The International Gateway license has a 10-year tenure while the ISP license is to last for five years. Both licenses take effect from May 2022 and may be renewed after the expiration.
What the launch of Starlink in Africa means
Starlink adds another level of competition to the telecom industry in Nigeria, challenging other players who have been in the space and have yet achieved admirable internet quality.
However, Starlink’s prices may burden the average Nigerian
Earlier this May, Starlink announced an increase in prices for both the purchase of Starlink kits and for the monthly service, according to an email sent out to customers.
The company said the “sole purpose of these adjustments is to keep pace with rising inflation.”
Before now, opting into Starlink required a $499 upfront purchase of a starter kit with all the necessary supplies, including a user terminal, or antenna, for connecting with SpaceX’s satellites.
Customers would then pay a $99 monthly charge to keep the service running. The new monthly price going forward will be $110.
All new orders of the Starlink kit will now cost $599, and anyone who put down a deposit for the original $499 kit will have to pay $549 instead. The new monthly prices will come into effect at different times for different customers.
The new prices will be separate from Starlink’s premium service which runs customers $2,500 to purchase the kit and $500 a month for higher performance.
The email to customers also mentions that Starlink has expanded its infrastructure considerably since launch, tripling how many satellites it has on orbit and quadrupling the number of ground stations in place to relay connectivity.
Starlink may come reliably where broadband is not, and it is best for low to medium population density areas.
However, its affordability remains a question, and rightly so, because there are already complaints as to the current prices compared with the quality of service offered by current players in the telecoms industry.
Will Starlink come cheaper for Africans?
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