Starlink, the satellite internet service owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, has disclosed on its website plans to launch in Kenya in the second quarter of 2023. The entry of Starlink into Kenya would signal new, well-heeled competition for internet service providers (ISPs) such as Safaricom, Wananchi Group-owned Zuku and Jamii Telecommunications’ Faiba.
Starlink currently provides satellite internet access to users in 45 countries, and plans to roll out mobile phone coverage after 2023. It is not currently available in any country in Africa, but has received regulatory approval in countries including Nigeria and Mozambique. Starlink crossed the one-million subscriber mark in December last year.
During its launch in 2015, Musk cited unmet global demand for low-cost broadband internet access. Starlink targets underserved parts of the world and high-density cities with its internet service. To compete in Kenya, the company would have to maintain comparatively affordable price points, and high-speed internet.
As of December 2022, Starlink had put 3,300 small satellites in space. To expand its reach, SpaceX plans to deploy up to a total of 12,000 satellites in coming years, with plans to eventually increase the figure to 42,000.
When internet speed tracker Ookla reported a decline in Starlink internet speeds between Q1 and Q2 2022, the company maintained that speeds would improve significantly once more satellites were in orbit. Revenue from Starlink is considered crucial to funding Musk and SpaceX’s plans to get to Mars.
Starlink has also rolled out a range of other products including Starlink Business, Starlink for RVs, and Starlink Maritime.
In August 2022 SpaceX lowered monthly service costs for Starlink users in select countries, including Brazil and Chile where users reported price drops of around 50%.
Starlink also faces scrutiny over its potential use by the US government in matters security. When asked in 2018 whether Starlink would launch satellites for the US mílitary, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell stated “we would if it’s for the defense of this country.”
In May last year, an article published by Chinese milítary researchers in a peer-reviewed journal outlined a strategy for destroying the Starlink constellation if the satellites were considered a threat to national security.