MTN, Airtel and others will lose market dominance as Starlink debuts


June 26 (THEWILL) – With the approval last month of Starlink in Nigeria, there is an indication that some existing network providers in the country could lose some of their market share in the telecommunications industry. This includes major players like MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications, as well as other internet service providers, such as Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile.

Starlink is a SpaceX satellite internet service owned by American billionaire Elon Musk.

With Nigeria’s advantageous position as one of the largest markets in Africa, Spacex had in 2021 entered into talks with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to obtain the necessary licenses to launch the network. In May 2022, and as part of SpaceX’s plan to roll out satellite internet service on the continent, the company was given the green light to introduce the network to Nigeria.

Starlink’s approval comes very close to issuing final fifth-generation (5G) spectrum licensing letters to MTN and Mafab Communications, winners of the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum auction conducted by the Commission on 13 December 2021.

With the issuance of the license, the two licensed operators are ready to deploy the 5G network soon. For example, MTN Nigeria had already confirmed that it would roll out a 5G network by August 24, 2022.

Speaking on the possible emergence of the Starlink network in the country, a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist, Network and Software Engineer, Engineer Yusuf Aweda Jimoh said that the impact of the Starlink network in Nigeria will be enormous.

Noting that none of the existing internet providers for mobile phones in the country would match one-third the value of Starlink, engineer Jimoh said: “The impact that SpaceX’s Elon Musk’s Starlink would have in any what a huge country would be”.

Explaining further, Engr Jimoh added, “Starlink is renowned for its impressive internet speed of up to 104 Mbps, none of the mobile phone internet providers would match a third of that value. This is clearly a big threat to existing Internet Service Providers.”

Advising the new network provider, he said: “In my opinion, I think Starlink should not have a direct relationship with users. He can be the main supplier where existing companies that are not as big as him in the sector would join together to provide services to end users”.

Also, an American Information and Communication Technology (ICT) consultant, Dr. Ben Idegwu, said that providing multiple networks is good for industrial growth.

Dr Idegwu pointed out that there would be little or no harm done to operators already licensed for the fifth generation (5G) spectrum. He noted, however, that there is a difference between the adoption of fiber optic and satellite network systems.

Citing latency/performance, security, mobile/stationary, congestion, and route diversity/availability as major areas where the two network systems differ, Idegwu said, “Fiber is fast because it doesn’t you don’t have to move to orbit and back for transfer. data like satellites do. It is also cheaper with relatively low loss and interference.”

“On the other hand, you know the satellite system is wireless. This allows it to cover regions where fiber optic infrastructure is not possible. Even at that, it has slower data rate and reliability compared to fiber optic. The reason is that optical fiber is a wired network and requires a huge investment to establish it properly.

For media expert and managing director of Newstide Publications, Dr. Marcel Mbamalu, the arrival of Starlink in Nigeria is expected to contribute to the rapid expansion of internet services in rural areas and create more employment in these areas to stem rural-urban migration.

Dr. Mbamalu also pointed out that the network will provide a child in rural areas with the same opportunity that those in urban cities enjoy in terms of internet connectivity.

“This gap is bridged by internet access and it can only improve as Starlink adds competition to encourage existing providers like MTN, Airtel, 9Mobile and Globacom to improve service quality and delivery. “, underlined Mbamalu.

Other telecom experts who spoke to THEWILL, however, are of the opinion that with the approval of Starlink, the emergence of the network would certainly trigger fierce competition among operators.

According to SpaceX, Starlink was launched as a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit (LOE) to provide low-latency, high-bandwidth internet to consumers around the world.

A low latency network connection is one that typically experiences small delays, while bandwidth refers to the amount of information a connection to the Internet can process at any given time.

Starlink Internet is said to work by sending information through the vacuum of space, where it travels much faster than in a fiber optic cable.

It is also said to be ideal for areas where connectivity is usually unreliable or completely unavailable. With a high population density of most Nigerians in rural areas, it is believed that satellite network systems would effectively attract and cover potential customers who live in these areas.

Some of the countries where Starlink has been approved include: Nigeria and Mozambique in Africa. The network has also been approved in the Philippines, Southeast Asia and Ukraine in Eastern Europe.

During this time, Nigeria has witnessed phenomenal growth in its information and communication technology (ICT) industry, thereby enabling socio-economic development in Nigeria and across the African continent.

Over the past 20 years, Nigeria has seen robust growth in its telecommunications industry where it has grown from less than half a million connected telephone lines to over 200 million active mobile lines as of April 2022. According to the reports, broadband penetration in Nigeria is now 42.79% just as the country has moved from second generation (2G) to 3G, 4G and now 5G which is about to start.

As for the 5G network, licensed operators have since declared themselves ready to go.

At the 90th edition of the Telecommunications Consumer Parliament, hosted recently by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC in Ikeja, Lagos, operators said they were optimistic about the deployment of the network system.

Moreover, while declaring the Consumer Parliament open, on the theme: 5G Technology: Opportunities and Challenges”, the Executive Vice-President of the Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta, reinforced the mandate and declared that the winners, MTN and Mafab Communication, should now accelerate deployment. of the 5G network that will usher Nigeria into a more robust Fourth Industrial Revolution, 4IR, and a more digitized Nigerian economy.

According to Danbatta, “in accordance with the terms and conditions of the 5G license, licensees are expected to begin deployment of 5G services beginning August 24, 2022.”

He however said that industry collaboration is very critical to the successful rollout of 5G services in Nigeria and urged industry stakeholders to stand with the Commission to explore the prospects and potentials of the new technology, which is huge.


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