With the viability of the continent’s telecommunication industry, Elon Musk’s StarLink has entered Africa’s telecom market after acquiring licences from the communications commissions of Nigeria and Mozambique.
This arrival, however, is poised to alter the narrative around the spread of the internet throughout the continent.
In Africa, four out of ten people have access to the internet, leaving the continent at a 43.1% internet penetration as of the end of 2021.
This leaves the continent with the lowest internet penetration in the world, which is considered below the benchmark of 66%. Despite this, internet users are predicted to increase to 565 million in 2022 and 700 million by 2025.
However, Elon Musk’s StarLink is not without competitors on the continent. The Internet Service Provider (ISP) will be directly competing with telecoms such as MTN Nigeria, Glo, Airtel, 9mobile, and other ISPs in the industry.
With thousands of operational SpaceX satellites, it has an edge against the dominant telecom companies.
Through internet access and speed
With the market gap in internet access and speed, Elon Musk’s StarLink will change the continent’s internet narrative, starting with Nigeria and Mozambique.
Due to poor network infrastructure in Nigeria, Nigerians access the internet through data from mobile telecommunications.
This internet data, however, is not made available to all, as 53.4% of people reside in urban areas and 46.6% in rural areas. This leaves the internet users at 51% in the first quarter of 2022.
Even with the available mobile internet, the speed is limited. Nigeria’s median mobile speed as of May 2022 was 16.48 Mbps, and fixed broadband was 10.05Mbps. In comparison, StarLink is ten times faster with 104Mbps.
Through SpaceX’s more than 1,500 satellites, Starlink will deliver an internet broadband of between 50 and 150 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for a latency of 20 to 40 milliseconds will be available on the continent.
This is a big contrast to the 4G connection, which provides 80-90 Mbps with an average latency of 50 milliseconds.
This record is off the charts of the United States Federal Communications Commission’s stipulated broadband of at least 25Mbps.
StarLink is bound to disrupt the telecom industry. Also, internet access and speed are made available to the remaining 49% of non-internet users.
Sectors to be enhanced
With more than 22% contribution to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP), it is the highest contributor to economic growth.
Also, to effectively implement the vision 2020 agenda of the country, the country needs to use extensive satellites to monitor and predict climate changes.
For instance, Cellulant, a Pan-African payments firm, connects its database of Nigerian farmers to the agricultural markets using its blockchain-based mobile app Agrikore.
With StarLink, farmers could utilise cell phones and not only USSD on programs like Agrikore to get weather and agricultural pricing information.
Extending the “chain of custody” of commodities from the farm to the warehouse, commodity exchanges like comX by NGEX can reduce commodity trading risks.
Education & Health
Africa continues to play catchup in a digitised world. Most students on the continent do not have access to the internet. With StarLink, education can get to the hinterland of Africa.
In 2020, only 13% of children and teenagers in Eastern and Southern Africa and 5% of those in West and Central Africa had access to the Internet at home. In the Middle East and North Africa, just 25% of young people have access to the internet at home.