Elon Musk’s satellite internet service Starlink officially launched in Nigeria this week, making Nigeria the first African country it has ventured into. The launch sparked excitement in the West African nation as early users shared the experiences and mulled the implications for the country’s telcoms industry.
Starlink currently provides satellite internet access to users in 45 countries, and plans to roll out mobile phone coverage after 2023. According to the Starlink website, it expects to launch in Kenya in the second quarter of the year.
It’s particularly interesting to watch their entry into Kenya as they are positioned to offer well-heeled competition to market-leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) including Safaricom, Faiba and Zuku, a situation consumers hope will lead to improved services and prices. Zuku, for instance, has in recent weeks been under pressure from numerous consumers over constant disruptions and customer service challenges.
Here’s what Nigerians’ experience with Starlink so far tells us about its anticipated launch in Kenya.
Early Starlink users in Nigeria reported download speeds of between 50 to 200Mbps.
Safaricom home fibre packages for speeds between 8Mbps and 100Mbps cost between Ksh2,999 and Ksh12,499 per month. Zuku, on the other hand, offers packages ranging from 10Mbps at Ksh2,799 a month to 120Mbps at Ksh17,799 a month and 250Mbps at Ksh19,999 a month.
Starlink would therefore likely be able to offer competitive speeds in Kenya – forcing consumers to make their decision based on other factors, including price and their particular needs.
Starlink users in Nigeria are paying around $43 (Ksh5,355) a month. In Kenya, for the same price, one can pay for an internet package such as Faiba’s 30Mbps home plan which costs Ksh5,250 a month – with Safaricom and Zuku also having similarly priced packages.
However, Starlink comes with additional hardware costs driving the overall cost up. In Nigeria, the hardware alone costs around Ksh74,900. The high initial costs may therefore discourage some consumers in Kenya leading them to opt for ISPs already in the market, many of whom offer free installation.
User experience is also likely to influence consumers’ decisions in Kenya. In Nigeria, for instance, several people noted the challenge of being required to make payments using Dollar-denominated cards on the Starlink website.
Many Kenyans are used to making payments via mobile money or Shilling credit/debit cards, and may struggle with the requirement.
Others in Nigeria who had experienced damage to the hardware, including the satellite dish, also reported challenges securing replacements and engaging the company.
Ultimately, the choice to sign up for Starlink or not will depend on users’ needs. Those in rural and remote areas in Kenya where larger ISPs do not offer fibre plans, for instance, may choose Starlink to better support their operations.
It can also attract those in urban and rural areas keen on faster speeds and low latency.
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