The generation’s finest innovator is coming to Nigeria with his product. Yes, Elon Musk and SpaceX are already in Abuja working with the industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), for permits to pipe broadband via satellite, bringing a new domain in the ICT space in the country. I have called that an “asymmetric disruption” because it offers a new order to what the terrestrial players like MTN, Glo and Airtel offer. In 2017, I wrote an article titled “2022 – Africa’s Year Of Affordable Broadband Internet And Immersive Connectivity”. That seems to be on the money!
In today’s videocast, I make a case that Africa will enter the era of affordable broadband internet in 2022. That will be the year we will begin a new dawn of immersive connectivity where you can eat and surf all you can. Industry players will take off the Internet meter and then focus on service, experience and quality. From satellite broadband vendors to the MNCs with balloons and drones, the sector will become very competitive and service will drive growth. This has happened in the past – every decade, Africa experiences a major industrial transformation. We saw that in banking and voice telephony. 2020s, starting at 2022, will be the decade of immersive connectivity.
People, the game is changing and customers have a promise ahead – better quality at lower price. 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 they truly believe in a totally free market system in our telecommunication sector.
But this is what I expect the telcos to say: 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.
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