Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink Arrives Nigeria, Meets NCC for Permit

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink Arrives Nigeria, Meets NCC for Permit

I have called it an asymmetric disruption when Elon Musk’s SpaceX decides to arrive Nigeria with its Starlink: “SpaceX has been in discussion with Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) virtually over the past several months to begin the process of pursuing all necessary licenses to bring Starlink, its satellite-based broadband services to Nigeria. Having made substantial progress in the discussion, the Commission granted SpaceX’s request for a face-to-face discussion to gain better insights on the prospects of their proposal. … the company provided an overview of its plans, expectations, licensing requests and deployment phases during the meeting.”

Yes, MTN, Glo and Airtel may have to watch if what they did to CDMA could happen to them via satellite-based broadband. I have a couple of friends who have migrated to Starlink in the United States, and they are just happy with it. If that becomes available, it simply means that the telcos have lost most parts or rural Nigeria.

I expect SpaceX to offer a new level of competition against terrestrial players like MTN, Glo and Airtel in Nigeria.  Satellite-based broadband is a product displacement threat and companies like MTN would see massive threats in coming years from satellite providers. But one thing is certain: customers will rejoice because quality will improve and cost will drop.

As that happens,  we will see how the telco industry body lobbies: expect a new dimension of bank-led and telco-led mobile money debate to resurface, but now GSM-led and satellite-led broadband connectivity in Nigeria. Yes, would telcos expect SpaceX Starlink to come into the open party just as they have expected the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to allow them to join the mobile money redesign in Nigeria. The argument was that telcos would improve the mobile money customer experience better than banks due to their better distribution outlets. 

But here, since Starlink is coming from satellite, I do think it has a huge chance to also improve the experiences of customers on broadband connectivity, unbounded and unconstrained by the usual terrestrial challenges.

People, everything will be tested and it all depends on what the regulator does with SpaceX, because if you allow Starlink carelessly, these telcos will fade. The telcos which have made a case for mobile money, that the government should allow the best to win, have an opportunity to tell Nigerians if it truly believes in a totally free market system in our telecommunication sector.

But this is what I expect to happen as the debate begins: the Nigerian telecom sector should be GSM-led, and not Satellite-led, and by that, even if SpaceX Starlink comes, it must be mandated to pipe its data through partnerships with GSM-based broadband providers. The telco lobby will argue for protecting jobs and investments. It would be a fierce one.

Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service has been approved by the UK regulator Ofcom.
Starlink, from Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, will compete with the likes of BT Group and OneWeb to provide internet to people across the UK.

People in the UK have already started receiving the Starlink kit.

One user told Insider that he received his Starlink equipment on New Year’s Eve and that his download speed jumped from 0.5 megabits per second to 85 Mbps.

The Full Press Release

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has emphasised that in light of disruption in the technology world, it is keen on balancing healthy competition with entry of disruptive technologies to ensure sustainable telecoms industry growth and development in Nigeria.

The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Umar Danbatta, stated this during a presentation to the commission by a delegation from SpaceX, an American aerospace manufacturer and space transportations services company, in Abuja on Thursday, May 6, 2021.

SpaceX is in the process of launching a low-earth orbiting (LOE) constellation of satellites to provide low latency, high bandwidths Internet to all corners of the globe and has identified Nigeria as a critical market.

SpaceX has been in discussion with NCC virtually over the past several months to begin the process of pursuing all necessary licenses to bring Starlink, its satellite-based broadband services to Nigeria.

Having made substantial progress in the discussion, the Commission granted SpaceX’s request for a face-to-face discussion to gain better insights on the prospects of their proposal.

Led by SpaceX’s Starlink Market Access Director for Africa, Ryan Goodnight and supported by the company’s consultant, Levin Born, the company provided an overview of its plans, expectations, licensing requests and deployment phases during the meeting.

After the presentation by SpaceX team, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, NCC, Ubale Maska, who stood in for the EVC, said NCC will work on necessary modalities to ensure that it balances the need for healthy competition vis-a-vis the entry of new technologies, in order to protect all industry stakeholders.

“As the regulator of a highly dynamic sector in Nigeria, the Commission is conscious of the need to ensure that our regulatory actions are anchored on national interest. We have listened to your presentation and we will review it vis-à-vis our regulatory direction of ensuring effective and a sustainable telecoms ecosystem where a licensee’s operational model does not dampen healthy competition among other licensees,” Mr Maska told the SpaceX delegation.

SpaceX team in Nigeria

Mr Maska further stated that the commission is interested in making necessary regulatory efforts to drive the coverage of rural, unserved and underserved areas of the country through the accomplishments of the lofty targets contained in the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP), 2020-2025. He noted that the plan’s target of 70 per cent broadband penetration target, covering 90 per cent of the population by 2025, is also in line with government expectations in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), 2010-2030.

Other senior management staff of the commission at the briefing include the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Adeleke Adewolu; Director, Licensing and Authorisation, Mohammed Babajika; Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity, Bako Wakil; Director, New Media and Information Security, Haru Alhassan and Director, Spectrum Administration, Oluwatoyin Asaju, among others.

Section 70 (2) of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003, empowers the Commission to regulate the provision and use of all satellite communications services and networks, in whole or in part within Nigeria or on a ship or aircraft registered in Nigeria.

This is for the purpose of ensuring a well-developed and organised satellite communications market with appropriate legal framework that meets international best practices, encourages innovation, promotes competition and guarantees public safety in the rendering of commercial satellite services.

NCC signs MOU with NigComSat on 5G Spectrum

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will facilitate the release of contiguous bandwidth in one of the most suitable frequency spectrum bands for early deployment of fifth Generation (5G) Network services in Nigeria.

The MoU signing ceremony was the high point of discussions by the two organisations on how to relocate the NG-1R satellite of NigComSat to the standard C-band 300MHz (3.9GHz – 4.2GHz) portion of the band, which is considered more suitable in terms of satellite service offering because of the advantage of cheaper terminal devices for end-users.

Accordingly, such relocation will leave the non-standard C-band 400MHz (3.5GHz – 3.9GHz) portion of the band for 5G use while the cost of relocating the NG-1R is expected to be offset from the proceeds of the auction of the 5G spectrum.


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10 thoughts on “Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink Arrives Nigeria, Meets NCC for Permit

  1. So, how are Nigerians preparing for the future of cheap broadband and improved services? Obviously it cannot be by looking and waiting to see who would emerge unscathed in the potential dogfight between SpaceX and traditional telcos.

    To position well for what is to come, the first thing will be to get smartphone and tablet makers to build a plant here. With abundance of broadband, we can add another hundred million people to the smartphone and tablet universe, and it’s unwise to be importing such large number of devices, they need to be assembled here.

    Millions of kids in primary and secondary school can be complementing their learning with tablets. It also makes it easier for kids in rural areas to share elite tutors with those in the city, without spending big; all it takes is hooking them up. It’s one key way of bridging the divide between the rich and poor.

    As for digital entrepreneurs, building digital conglomerates would have one less problem to contend with, because you no longer need to worry about data cost, while potentially expanding your customer base.

    The future looks very exciting, and we will keep positioning to be at the heart of the revolution and evolution.

  2. Starlink will be a deja vu for us if we recall the late 80s and early 90s with the massive satellite dish craze which soon gave way to MMDS rebroadcasting services and dish farms. Unless we have certainty in pricing being competitive to warrant direct ownership, there is likely to be a retransmission model either via fibre cables or over the air . We just have to see where this goes.

  3. Ogedengbe OlaDaniel · Edit

    Sir,the traditional telcos,re gone!
    But I foresee a rollout of propaganda from them to rubbish Starlink!?

    I don’t trust Nigeria officials on argument on healthy competition; telcos argument on employments generation,etc they dished the CDMA,so change is constant.

    We want the Starlink!

  4. Oluwaseun Yemi Olufalae · Edit

    The future comfort we talked about is knocking at the door. The regulatory body must do the needful and at the right time. Nigeria needs to develop more than what she is currently. Can’t wait to experience this timely disruption…


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