SpaceX’s Starlink internet service is gradually moving into the continent of Africa, starting with Nigeria and Rwanda.
A recent article shows that 64.4% of the world’s population makes use of the internet with Africa being the third largest user. Given the disparity in the accessibility of the internet on the African continent, where 26% of the population in East Africa, 24% in Central Africa, and 66% in South Africa make use of the internet.
Seeing as Africa’s disparity is caused by poor digital infrastructure and the high cost of fiber optic cables or mobile phone masts, especially in remote areas, Starlink’s innovation is set to close those gaps caused by the disparity in the continent.
Starlink can provide fast and reliable internet, unlike the conventional geostationary satellites that are found 35,000km from earth because of its Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites that interconnect and transmit signals between each other. Also, Starlink’s satellites are found closer to the Earth’s surface with a distance of 550 km which makes live streaming, online gaming, and video calls easier.
SpaceX can launch its satellites once there is demand for it and update them with the latest tech. Currently, it has launched 3,981 satellites with 3,639 operational.
One of the challenges surrounding Starlink is the cost, In Nigeria, FiberOne which is a broadband internet service provider delivers 500Mbps internet speed at N32,231 (approximately US$70) and a monthly subscription of N100,000 (US$220), however, Starlink charges N276,000 (US$599) for the kit, installation and monthly subscription fee of N198,000 (US$43). It’s important to note that Starlink is more affordable for long-term use than fiber and mobile internet providers. The issue of high cost is a problem as the average Nigerian home brings in an income of less than N28,000 (US$60) thus distancing certain target users from their services.
Mobile internet has been acknowledged as contributing to the technological advancement of Africa and regardless of the issue of cost, faster internet will only keep contributing to Africa’s advancement in governance, health, agriculture, disaster risk reduction, mitigation, etc.
The arrival of Starlink in Africa is the arrival of positive transformation in the technological sphere of the continent and this innovation can end the disparity in internet faced between internet users in the African continent. If their services can be made more affordable, especially for those in rural areas, then Africa is well on its way to technological development.
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