The Potential Impact of Starlink in Africa

Elon Musk’s SpaceX owns Starlink, a satellite internet provider service. To date, the service is accessible in Four African countries namely Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Mozambique in providing access to it. In July Starlink stated that the service was officially made available in Kenya through a Twitter announcement.

Other African countries where the satellite service is set to launch at the end of the year are Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini, Angola, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana, and Zambia. Starlink’s website features an availability map for more in-depth details on coverage areas.

Starlink has a fleet of 3,000 low-orbit satellites which provide high-speed, low-latency internet to users across the world. Starlink is the first and largest in the world to deliver broadband internet through satellites.

A subscription is required for the services, and a Starlink kit, which includes an antenna and Wi-Fi router, is needed to access the internet.

The website provides all the details for individuals or businesses to sign up for the service which comes at a monthly subscription fee. Starlink provides an activation kit which when installed provides you with access to the internet services wherever there is available network access.

According to My Broadband, the standard rectangular satellite dish for residential usage is rated for download speeds from 20-100Mbps, with latency between 25-50ms. This could prove useful in rural areas with limited or no mobile connectivity or fixed broadband access.

South Africans have found creative ways to access Starlink’s internet as it is impossible to access it as  ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) has not yet officially issued a license for Starlink to operate in the country. Some ways that South Africans have accessed Starlink coverage is by using the antenna to receive a signal from the satellites, as well as the Wi-Fi router that is available with the kit.

According to News24, IT Lec, in the Eastern Cape, acts as a third-party service provider that imports the Starlink kit for South Africans and manages the subscriptions.

Within the broader African context satellite internet has the potential to provide a lifeline to individuals in rural communities, however, regulatory hurdles prove to be challenging, prohibiting the service from gaining access to certain areas. According to a source from Zimbabwe, standard procedure dictates that any satellite operator must have an earth-based station to interconnect with local networks.

Recently, Zimbabwe’s Minister of ICT stated that Starlink must adhere to the country’s laws, emphasizing the need for this precaution due to potential challenges in tracing data from user to end user in cases of fraud or cyber breaches.

The advantages of the service prove to hold substantial potential for the African continent, especially in light of the rising fuel price hikes and energy crisis. Starlink’s provision of unfettered, high-speed internet is attractive to fast-developing markets like Nigeria, which was the first country to gain official access to the service.

Starlink offers speeds up to 100 Mbps, surpassing traditional Nigerian ISPs. Personal opinions on the service vary, and there are reviews available for further exploration.