In the August / September issue of African Business, out now, we take an in-depth look at Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet system and ask whether it holds the key to unlocking internet access for millions of Africans.
The company announced in May that Nigeria and Mozambique had become the first countries in Africa to allow Starlink to operate.
What is novel about Starlink and several of its competitors is that they rely on satellites that are in low Earth orbit (LEO).
Being closer to the Earth, LEO satellites are able to receive and transmit information with much lower “latency” than traditional communication satellites, meaning that users will not suffer as much from a “satellite delay”.
“There is a clear use case for rural areas — the absence of infrastructure,” says Amaka Onyemenam, consultant at advisory firm Africa Practice. In areas where the cost and difficulty of constructing traditional infrastructure is too great, Onyemenam says that “satellite is likely the only viable option”.
Nigerians that purchase a terminal will be able to subscribe to Starlink services from the third quarter of this year; Mozambicans can follow suit shortly afterwards.
Several other companies have also entered the race to provide satellite broadband services in remote areas. Do they hold the key to finally closing the last mile gap and making internet access a reality throughout the African continent?