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What does Elon Musk’s Starlink mean for Nigeria?

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash

World famous tech billionaire, Elon Musk has introduced the Starlink concept and is making legal moves to bring the service – Starlink, to the final phase. According to Starlink’s Market Access Director for Africa, Ryan Goodnight; Nigeria is a choice market in Africa, with a lot of rural communities yet to have affordable access to the internet. He said this in a meeting with Nigeria’s Prof. Umar Danbatta; Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The meeting held on Friday 7th May 2021 in the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria.

In the larger scheme of things, Starlinks’ entry into the Nigerian telco space implies one thing; competition for the traditional telcos in the home/office service category. For the past decade, big dogs in the telecommunication industry like MTN, Glo, Airtel and others have already registered their presence and made a name for themselves in providing enterprise-based internet access for large applications. Where Starlink distinguishes itself is its unique source of broadband – its own satellite. This means faster, cheaper access to internet in the long run for larger businesses.

Another party possibly affected by this move would be digital entrepreneurs. The coming of Starlink would mean more options which means no worries for data costs while expanding business scopes. Starlink will be instrumental in helping the country to provide internet access to at least 90% of its population by 2025.

Unfortunately, the costs touted are not exactly cheap, at least for the time being; especially considering the fact that Starlink is still at its beta stage. The service costs anywhere between $99 - $120 with a $499 advance payment which covers all requisite set-up hardware (a router, satellite dish, mounting tripod and necessary power supply) - making it relatively more expensive than the already available options.

There's optimism that the costs will further depreciate as skeletal plans gradually take shape to become something more substantial.

As exciting as the prospects are, most of it remain projections and promises at this stage.

Not All Rosy

It is important to note that Starlink will thrive better in home/office applications as the receptors for satellite signals are often as large as a pizza box. And since no one wants the inconvenience of carrying a pizza box around, the traditional service providers should continue enjoying a huge chunk of market share from everyday commuters.

But of course certain areas will be directly affected by Starlink. With download speeds of 100Mpbs and upload speeds of 40Mpbs, the traditional Call of Duty faithful may not be exactly enthusiastic about Elon's innovation given the higher latency. Also, Fiber internet seems to provide better value based on existing information, so users may not be too enthusiastic for a switch.

Ultimately, SpaceX’s Starlink coming to Nigeria spells promising prospects for all the parties involved. Partnership opportunities for already existing internet providers, better market for digital entrepreneurs and access to internet especially for those in rural areas.

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