The relevant authorities of Nigeria and Mozambique have approved the launch of Starlink – a satellite-based internet service provider (ISP) – in their countries. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk confirmed the news via Twitter on Friday, May 27. The launch dates are yet to be confirmed, however, Starlink’s coverage map slates the launch in Nigeria for the 3rd quarter of the year, and the launch in Mozambique for the 4th quarter.
A part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Starlink currently offers high-speed, low-latency broadband internet in 32 countries across the globe. The ISP’s launch in Nigeria and Mozambique will be game-changing for internet connectivity in the continent. Claiming these to be the “first countries in Africa”, Musk hinted at moves to include other African countries in the future in a tweet made on May 24.
Starlink’s move to Africa has been in the works for a while. About a year ago, Starlink Market Access Director for Africa, Ryan Goodnight met with Nigerian Communications Commision’s (NCC) Executive Chairman, Umar Danbatta, to seek an operating license in Nigeria. According to a report by Nairametrics, Starlink obtained two licenses: a 10-year International Gateway license and a 5-year ISP license. The licenses can be renewed upon expiration.
Meanwhile, Mozambique’s National Institute of Communications (INCM) authorized the licensing process in Mozambique since February 23. In a press release, INCM spoke about how the launch of Starlink would support the government’s efforts to improve connectivity in the public education sector especially.
Will Starlink Be Affordable?
The reception to the news on social media was a bit mixed. While many were excited as they would finally have access to super high internet speeds, some feared that the service would not be affordable for the average Nigerian or Mozambican.
Starlink’s listed prices are simply not competitive amongst local ISPs. Preordering costs 110 USD (60,000 NGN/ 7,000 MZN) while ordering the full kit costs 599 USD (330,000 NGN/ 38,241 MZN). These prices do not even take the monthly service charges into account. Its premium service cost runs into millions of Naira and hundreds of thousands of Mozambican Meticals.
The Nigerian internet connectivity space is dominated by telco giants like MTN, Glo and Airtel, as well as ISPs such as Smile and Spectranet. These offer relatively affordable prices for 4G/4G LTE speed internet. However, Starlink soars much higher than the others in terms of speed – up to 150 Mbps compared to the existing 18 Mbps maximum.
Moreover, satellite-based technology can cover gaps other ISPs and telcos have been unable to meet. In Nigeria, data from NCC shows that there are 114 access gaps of internet connectivity, leaving about 25 million Nigerians with no connection to the rest of the world. The satellites used for Starlink have the ability to reach far wider, and is mostly unhindered compared to other ISP technologies.
In Mozambique, the case is mostly the same. Telcos like mCel, Vodacom and Movitel dominate the space, with a few individual ISPs also operating. However, a German satellite-based ISP called VSAT Satellite Broadband also operates with speeds of up to 100 Mbps. This means Starlink will have even more closer competition in Mozambique. Information on VSAT’s package prices was not accessible, however, it should be in the same range as Starlink’s.
Nigerians and Mozambicans would have to weigh the pros of the satellite-based ISPs against the extremely high prices. However, the prevalent hope is that Starlink would offer more affordable packages in these countries.