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Elon Musk’s Starlink Entry in Kenya Sparks Surge in Satellite Internet

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In a significant shift, the number of Kenyans opting for satellite internet services more than doubled in the last quarter of 2021, sparked by the entry of Elon Musk’s Starlink into the Kenyan market in July of the same year.

Data from the Communications Authority of Kenya reveals a surge from 1,354 users in the three months leading to September, to 2,933 users by the end of December. The exponential growth in users highlights a growing interest in satellite internet, a service previously accessed mainly by large corporations and specific niche users.

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Starlink’s service, utilizing space-based satellites for internet connectivity, primarily caters to remote regions where traditional terrestrial providers such as cable or fixed wireless services are inaccessible.

Despite initial skepticism from experts regarding the service’s pricing structure, Starlink’s successful launch in Kenya has defied expectations, demonstrating a robust reception from consumers. The influx of over 1,000 satellite internet users during Starlink’s initial quarter in the market underscores the heightened demand ignited by the company’s entry.

Moreover, Starlink’s arrival has not only expanded the user base but also elevated internet speeds, with 92 percent of subscribers now enjoying speeds between 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. This departure from the usual browsing speeds of 10-30 Mbps prevalent in Kenya’s fixed internet services signals a significant advancement in internet access for users.

The total satellite internet capacity in Kenya experienced a 4.9 percent increase to 0.448 Gbps during the period, underscoring the technology’s capacity to deliver high-speed connectivity. The market share held by ‘other’ fixed internet providers, including Starlink, rose to 1.8 percent, up from 0.8 percent in the previous quarter.

While Starlink has emerged as a frontrunner in the satellite internet space in Kenya, it faces competition from existing providers like Vizocom, Telkom’s Skynet, NTvsat, and Globaltt, with Safaricom also signalling interest in entering the market. This diversification in satellite internet services promises a more extensive range of choices for Kenyan consumers seeking reliable, high-speed connectivity across both urban and remote areas.

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STEVE WAMBUGU
STEVE WAMBUGU
Steve Wambugu is a journalist based in Nairobi.
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