Starlink prepares ground to enter Kenyan market

February 10, 2023 - Reading Time: 2 minutes - By Susan Njeri

SpaceX is aggressively growing Starlink internet satellite coverage throughout the globe. It provides a worldwide broadband network leveraging a low-earth orbit constellation to give high-speed broadband internet with the ability to enter remote and geographically isolated zones where internet access is difficult to achieve. 

It is meant to provide global high-speed, low-latency broadband internet of about 20 ms vs 600+ ms. Spacex considers Starlink to be of the low-latency network due to the thousands of satellites that revolve around the Earth at a considerably closer distance of roughly 550 kilometers covering the entire globe. Spacex has around 2,900 low-Earth orbit satellites and plans on having 42,000 satellites by mid-2027.

Elon Musk’s intention to have Starlink expand in Africa has now commenced with Starlink internet now operational in Nigeria making it the first African country to use the internet. The company has plans to expand in Tanzania in the first quarter and in Kenya for the second quarter, with hopes to expand its footprint to 50 African markets in the future.

Starlink, which is already available in Nigeria, costs $600 upfront and $43 per month. This is a higher price than the country is accustomed to, however, it guarantees high-speed connectivity even in the most rural of areas.

In Tanzania, Minister for Information, Communications, and Information Technology Nape Nnauye confirmed that they received the applications from Starlink in 2022 and the government has already responded to the application requiring Starlink to submit certain necessary documents in order for it to commence its services in Tanzania.

Just recently, Starlink publicized its intentions to launch in Kenya soon and has further opened up for Kenyans to pre-order the service and deposit Sh12,260 ($99) to reserve it if approved. Starlink has targeted four main cities i.e Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, and Kisumu. These cities are the most populous, below is a rank of the cities’ speed during the third quarter of 2022.

City Rank Medium download (mbps) Medium uploads (mbps) Latency
Kisumu 22.63 8.21 30
Mombasa 22.58 13.03 34
Eldoret 19.11 10.84 34
Nairobi 17.91 9.74 27
Nakuru 15.66 8.49 30

Starlink possesses a great threat to the existing telecoms since Spacex employs satellites to provide worldwide broadband internet, similar to how the global positioning system (GPS) provides geolocation to cell phones all over the world Unlike GPS, it requires thousands of satellites to operate without interruptions. This places Starlink at an advantage since its satellites are regularly upgraded with the most recent technological advances compared to other services that provide internet through fiber optic cables, Wi-Fi, and cellular networks. Further, the download speeds for Starlink Business is up to 350 Mbps and latency of 20-40ms which offers high throughput connectivity for offices with up to 20 users and demanding workloads worldwide.

However, Starlink is likely to encounter stiff competition in Kenya since there are already established predominant market players like Safaricom, Airtel, Faiba, Zuku etc, that are more affordable and reliable. The Starlink dish, a mounting tripod, a Wi-Fi router, a power supply, and a cable all cost Ksh74,216 ($599) which is quite high for the majority of people.  The Kenyan market is highly volatile and there is reduced brand loyalty. More often than not, people will go for cheaper, more efficient, affordable, and reliable brands regardless of their length of operation. Market players should, however, not disregard the entry of Starlink in the market as its operations could significantly transform broadband penetration, facilitate commerce, and bridge internet connectivity gaps.

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