Elon Musk’s expensive STARLINK arrives in Africa

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Elon Musk’s satellite internet service, Starlink, has been licensed to operate in Nigeria and Mozambique, but it’s not cheap.

Starlink, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) similar to Spectranet or VSAT, provides super-fast Internet access via satellites to rural areas. Unlike telecom operators like MTN, Vodafone, AirtelTigo and Glo, which offer both voice and internet services, Starlink specifically acts as an internet service provider, so customers cannot make direct phone calls with them.

Starlink is theoretically capable of delivering 150 Mbps internet speeds anywhere on the planet. All the customer needs is a clear view of the sky. It basically helps connect people to the internet broadcast from space on a satellite dish, 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 150 Mbps that Starlink promises on paper is an impressive internet speed, especially in Africa where internet speeds are generally low.

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While Starlink promises 150 Mbps for these Nigeria and Mozambique, its prices aren’t that promising. Starlink’s standard kit costs $599 (GHS4 672) to set up and a monthly subscription fee of $110 (GHS858).

Its premium service, which offers internet speeds of up to 500 Mbps, costs $2,500 (19,500 GHS) to set up and a monthly subscription of $500 (3,900 GHS). That’s 10 times 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, let alone Starlink’s. With 249,000 subscribers, Spectranet has the largest number of subscribers of any internet service operator in Nigeria; the rest have less than 15,000. Many others stick to telecom which has affordable data plans that cost less than $10.

In Ghana, internet service providers control only a fraction of the data market, with telecom operators serving a large share of subscribers with cheaper data plans.

Since the announcement, many people have been concerned about Starlink’s pricing, especially since it plans to provide high-speed Internet access to rural areas.

At these prices, it looks like Starlink will shine more with enterprises and large corporations than with individuals, MSMEs and villages.

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