Elon Musk’s satellite internet service, Starlink, has received license to operate in Nigeria and Mozambique, but it doesn’t come cheap.
Starlink, an internet service provider/operator (ISP) similar to Spectranet or VSAT, delivers super-fast internet via satellites to rural areas. Unlike telcos like MTN, Vodafone, AirtelTigo, and Glo, which offer both voice and internet services, Starlink is coming in specifically as an internet service provider, so customers can’t make direct phone calls with them.
Starlink is theoretically capable of delivering 150 Mbps internet speeds to any place on the planet. All the customer needs is a clear view of the sky. It basically helps connect people to the internet beamed from space onto a dish antenna, much like satellite TV.
Currently, Starlink operates in 36 countries around the world and has over 400,000 subscribers. Mozambique and Nigeria will mark the service’s entry into Africa.
The 150Mbps Starlink promises on paper is impressive internet speed, especially in Africa where internet speeds are generally low.
While Starlink does promise 150 Mbps for these Nigeria and Mozambique, its prices aren’t so promising. Starlink’s Standard kit costs $599 (GHS4,672) to set up and a monthly subscription fee of $110 dollars (GHS858).
Its premium service—which has internet speeds of up to 500 Mbps—costs $2,500 (GHS19,500) to set up and a monthly subscription fee of $500 (GHS3,900). That’s 10x the $50 subscription fee Nigerians pay for unlimited internet services from providers like Spectranet or SMILE.
And very few Nigerians can afford Spectranet’s prices, talk less of Starlink’s. At 249,000 subscribers, Spectranet has the highest subscribers of any internet service operator in Nigeria; the rest have less than 15,000. Many more stick with telecoms which have affordable data plans that cost less than $10.
In Ghana, internet service providers command just a fraction of the data market, with the telcos serving a much great chunk of subscribers with cheaper data packages.
Since the announcement, many people have been concerned about Starlink’s prices, especially as it plans to provide high-speed internet to rural areas.
At these prices, it appears Starlink will shine brighter with corporations and large businesses than it will with individuals, MSMEs, and villages.