In an attempt to deepen broadband and internet penetration in Nigeria, Starlink, a satellite internet constellation, has received approval to operate in the Nigerian market.

The satellite, operated by SpaceX, owned by the former richest man in the world, Elon Musk, aims to offer a global broadband network, using a low-Earth orbit constellation to provide high-speed Internet coverage with the ability to penetrate into rural and geographically isolated areas where Internet connectivity is hardly achievable.

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, according to the World Economic Forum, can help connect the unconnected and bridge the digital divide.

As the company prepares for its launch in Nigeria, the satellite has gained approval to operate in the Nigerian market on May 27, 2022.

On July 24, 2022, SpaceX launched 53 satellites in what was the 33rd Starlink launch of 2022. This follows a successful launch on July 22, 2022, which put 46 Starlink satellites into orbit. So far, the company has launched nearly 3,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit.

Accessing the already existing satellite in Nigeria, an expert in the telecom sector shared his opinion on Musk Starlink

In 2007 Nigeria launched its first communications satellite NIGCOMSAT-1, built by a Chinese team and launched from a Chinese platform. NIGCOMSAT-1 was launched to provide telephony, broadband internet and streaming services in Africa’s most populous country, but was lost in space a year later, according to research.

In 2011, Nigeria also launched NigeriaSat-2 and Nigeriasat-x into orbit under the chairmanship of Goodluck Jonathan.

The former president described these Satellites as another milestone in the nation’s effort to solve national problems through space technology.

Ajibola Olude, Secretary of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) said that the performance of these existing satellites, especially NIGCOMSAT-1, has been limited due to government negligence.

“There are satellites in Nigeria, but Nigcomsat’s hasn’t really been effective because it doesn’t have the necessary government backing and it’s not adequately protected by the government. It does not enjoy monopoly privilege because the sector is driven by market supply and demand forces,” Olude said.

However, the ATCON secretary revealed that Starlink will be positioned to serve both public and corporate organizations as well as the retail market, a feature that makes it totally different from the already existing satellites in Nigeria.

He said: “There are other satellite companies. The only difference is that they are going to serve the retail market and the corporate organization. However, the previous satellite in Nigeria concentrated on selling capacity to our members.”

What Starlink could mean for Nigeria

The launch of Starlink in Nigeria, according to industry experts, could mean a lot for the country in the area of ​​broadband penetration, job creation, increased investment and income generation.

“It will definitely help those in the rural area where MTN and other telecommunication networks do not have a good presence. Satellites can cover those areas that telecommunications companies cannot penetrate. With these Elon Musk satellites, rural areas will have the opportunity to use internet connections. And it’s going to boost broadband so underserved areas can now have full access to Internet connections.

“In addition, it will increase investment in the sector. The Government will obtain more tax revenue, will generate more employment and will have good effects on the economy”, added Olude.

Meanwhile, ahead of the launch of Starlink’s internet service in Nigeria, both MTN and 9mobile are reported to have lost more than 1.37 million data users, after Starlink revealed its intention to invest in the internet services market. from Nigeria.

Some of the local operators who did not want to be named said that part of their end-of-year strategy is to study how Starlink plans to disrupt the Nigerian market, given that the satellites have the ability to penetrate rural areas where many of the competitors do. they currently have little or no significant presence.

However, Nigerians who want to sign up for Elon Musk’s Starlink internet service will have to pay $600 to purchase the setup hardware. Also, subscription to Starlink’s service in Nigeria will cost $43 per month. However, Starlink customers in some parts of the world like the United States pay between $110 and $500 per month (for fast speeds of 50-500), depending on whether they want residential, RV, or commercial satellite Internet.

Compared to Nigeria, where most internet users don’t spend that much on the internet in a month, Starlinks is likely to get low patronage unless it plans to be both price and service competitive in Nigeria’s diverse market.

However, Starlink’s speed is its selling point and may attract many tech-savvy Nigerians.

Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, the company behind Starlink, had projected that satellite internet speeds would reach 300 Mbps by 2021. This is not the case.

According to Ookla, which has been tracking Starlink’s speed, average download speeds in the US dropped from 90.6 Mbps to 62.5 Mbps between Q1 and Q2 2022. Average upload speeds for Starlink in the US dropped from 9.3 Mbps to 7.2 Mbps in the same time frame. Ookla also found that Starlink speeds dropped in every country it surveyed over the past year as more users signed up for the service. Starlink reached 1 million users worldwide in December.

SpaceX says it will need to increase the number of satellites it currently owns to increase speed. SpaceX began launching Starlink satellites in 2019 and, as of September 2022, has launched more than 3,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit. On December 1, SpaceX won FCC approval to go ahead with launching up to 7,500 next-generation satellites on its Starlink Internet network.

Nigeria View on Starlink

Some Nigerians have expressed concern about the high cost of acquiring Starlink’s hardware as “too high”. As Nigerians can only pay for hardware and subscription in dollars while most of the Nigerian banks have suspended dollar transactions with naira cards.

A Twitter handle identified as Ulasi Arinze said, “Nigerians really want Starlink internet but they can’t pre-order because the pre-order is in US dollars and not Naira.”

Love Joshua said: “Most of the people who need and use Starlink are people who are already very broad in broadband technology and already have dollar accounts or earn in dollars. Starlink is broadband, not mobile internet,” she said.

There is a yearning for high-speed internet in Nigeria offered by SpaceX Starlink, although the cost of the service is out of reach for the average Nigerian. The buying population is there to allow you to recoup your investments and make massive profits, noted a Twitter user identified as Iyene Paul.