SpaceX’s satellite internet service Starlink has announced its availability in Nigeria, months after it signed agreement with the Nigerian government to bring in its satellite-based internet coverage.
Starlink announced the launch on Tuesday, making Nigeria the first African country to use the satellite internet and 46th in the world.
Starlink is now available in Nigeria – the first African country to receive service! ? https://t.co/slZbTmZmAt
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 30, 2023
The Minister of Information and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim, acknowledged the development on Tuesday, saying the company hosted him in their Headquarters, USA in December 2022 to complete the logistics for the deployment.
— Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim, CON (@ProfIsaPantami) January 31, 2023
The availability of Starlink internet now widens competition in the Nigerian internet market, which has been dominated by telecom-based internet service providers. The players, MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9Mobile currently have 154.8m internet subscribers, according to National Communication Commission.
However, the new comer is expected to disrupt the market with speed. Starlink has 50-200 Mbps internet speed, dwarfing Nigeria’s 21.54 download and 10.10 upload Mbps, which respectively places Nigeria at 93rd in December 2022 internet speed ranking, according to Speedtest Global Index.
With its speed edge over mobile and fixed broadband internet services in Nigeria, Starlink is expected to dominate the West Africa’s largest internet market in no time. But its biggest challenge remains affordability.
At the onset, Starlink had fixed $600 as the cost of its hardware and $43 dollar as the cost of its monthly subscription. Converted to naira, Nigeria’s local currency, the cost amounted to about N438,000 and N31,000, using the parallel market exchange rate.
The cost, which is highly unaffordable for an average Nigerian, was expected to force the majority of Nigerian internet users to stick to their local internet providers. However, Starlink ushered in the deal breaker upon launch. The Elon Musk-founded satellite internet company, which now makes its charges available in naira, slashed the costs of the hardware to N274,098 and subscription plan to N19,260 per month, making for the ultimate disruption.
Although the cost is still considered unaffordable for millions of individual internet subscribers, the move by SpaceX is expected to drive millions of Nigerian internet users to Starlink, especially the big corporations that made up the internet service providers’ biggest customers.
But the cost may defeat the objective, which is to deliver internet service to rural areas that lack broadband penetration.
The Minister of Communications last week said, with the operation of Starlink satellite internet, Nigeria has achieved 100% broadband. He said that through the National Broadband Plan (NBP 2020-2025), Nigeria was targeting 90% broadband coverage by the year 2025, but this has been achieved ahead of time through the licensing of Starlink as Nigerians can now have access to high-speed internet from any part of the country.
But that depends much on the affordability of the satellite internet service. Musk has been complaining that Starlink is losing a lot of money providing free or subsidized internet service around the world, suggesting that there could be a review of its subscription cost in the near future.
However, analysts said that the Nigerian internet providers can mitigate the impact of Starlink by deepening broadband penetration in remote parts of the country, where their services will become the preferred because it offers cheaper subscription costs.