Elon Musk’s Starlink finally lands in Nigeria, but not for everyone.

Ganiu Oloruntade
Elon Musk's Starlink finally lands in Nigeria, but not for everyone.

The long wait for Starlink in Nigeria is over, as it appears that the SpaceX-owned satellite internet service has finally made its way to the country’s shores.

On Tuesday evening, Abdullahi Idris, a software engineer, tweeted to confirm the internet service’s arrival in Nigeria, sharing pictures and a video of the Starlink dish and router.

According to him, Starlink is “20x better than current unlimited service for 0.6x subscription the price” — a claim he backed with a screenshot of his internet speed. Idris told Technext that he spent $600 in total — $99 for the pre-order in May and a balance of $501.

“Two weeks ago. I paid up early last week. And it was out for delivery on Friday, which I canceled because of my availability. Then I collected it yesterday. It was a local delivery within Nigeria, by the looks of it,” he said.

A few days ago, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, disclosed that SpaceX would begin the roll-out of Starlink before the end of 2022.

Pantami, speaking at the US-Space Forum, also said the Nigerian government had approved the company’s application as a High Throughput Satellite (HTS) Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Operator in the Nigerian Telecommunications Sector. 

“As part of the partnership, Space X is to provide broadband access across the whole of Nigeria, enabling nationwide access to broadband connectivity way ahead of the December 2025 schedule, as outlined in our National Broadband Plan.

Isa Pantami

With this collaboration with SpaceX’s Starlink, Nigeria is set to be the 1st African country to introduce the service,” he was quoted to have said in a report by Nairametrics.

How it started

In May this year, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) granted Starlink two licenses — the International Gateway license and the Internet service provider (ISP) license, which took effect immediately. While the former has a 10-year tenure, the ISP license lasts five years. Also, the service is registered as an entity, Starlink Internet Services Nigeria Ltd., based in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital.

Space X CEO, Elon Musk would later confirm the development in a May 27 tweet, saying Starlink — which provides satellite internet access coverage to 32 countries where its use has been licensed — had been approved in Nigeria and Mozambique. For Musk (now Twitter owner), Starlink will “serve everywhere on Earth that we’re legally allowed to serve”.

Elon Musk's Starlink finally lands in Nigeria, but not for everyone.

The plan to launch Starlink in Africa, especially in Nigeria, has been in the works for quite a while. In May 2021, SpaceX sent some representatives to the NCC, the country’s telecommunications regulator, to discuss the possibility of obtaining a license to operate Starlink in Nigeria.

The NCC, at the time, emphasized 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.

Read also: Elon Musk’s Starlink has been licensed in Nigeria | This is what it means.

For one, internet penetration in Nigeria has recently been on the rise. The NCC recently disclosed that active internet users are now over 152.2 million, yet the internet speed is still among the slowest in the world. For context, Nigeria is ranked 151st amongst 182 countries in the latest Speedtest Global Index published by U.S.-based internet speed analysis firm Ookla.

So the arrival of a high-speed network service like Starlink certainly boosts internet access in Nigeria. With high speeds and latency as low as 20 milliseconds in most locations, Starlink enables video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities that historically have not been possible with satellite Internet.

It gets more interesting when you know that Starlink’s 100 Mbps download speed is nearly five times higher than the highest median download speed recorded in Nigeria for fixed broadband between January and March this year. 

Kalu Aja, a finance expert, said when it was announced that the SpaceX-operated service was coming to Nigeria, that the development means “a kid in Ohafia will have same or faster internet access than a kid in Ikoyi”. Tech YouTuber Fisayo Fosudo, in a tweet, also expressed eagerness to test out Starlink.

Elon Musk's Starlink finally lands in Nigeria, but not for everyone.
Image Source: Nairametrics.

“I would rate it {Starlink} above any other wireless network in Nigeria. The average I got, which was about 160mbps is more than enough for a household. Also, it is very good for spaces with even up to (15-20) people to do most things, because, in reality, 16 people can’t be downloading 100GB files all at the same time every time. Plus it doesn’t matter what location you are, you have world-class internet,” Idris, who has used the internet service for some days, said.

Despite the many bright spots of Starlink in terms of its offerings, affordability remains a major issue. Little wonder that many people have urged SpaceX to introduce a different price regime for Africans. For starters, it will cost $599 for the dish and router and $110 for a monthly subscription — up from $499 and $99, respectively, after a price review. To enjoy the premium service, customers will cough out $2,500 to purchase the kit and $500 monthly for higher performance.

The point here is that embracing Starlink as an alternative to existing internet providers might be extremely difficult for most Nigerians. Per a recent report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), about 133 million people — out of the country’s estimated 200 million population — live in multidimensional poverty. Still, Nigerians pay through the nose for internet service. Last year, over N3.25 trillion was spent on airtime, data, and other telecommunication services in the country.

But, Idris believes that Starlink is affordable for the upper middle class, especially for personal uses at home, saying the internet service is a much better deal when compared to regular internet providers.

“The monthly subscription is quite cheap compared to most unlimited WiFi networks and “unmetered” which is the key point. For small to medium offices, if they prioritize internet connection, it’s affordable for them. But Starlink for businesses exists separately, though with higher capacity and of course higher cost,” he added.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!

Register for Technext Coinference 2023, the Largest blockchain and DeFi Gathering in Africa.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!