Elon Musk’s Starlink is set to charge Nigerians a $600, about N440,000 at the prevailing parallel exchange rate of N740 – N745 to $1, to acquire the hardware.
In addition, the subscription to Starlink’s service in Nigeria will cost $43 (~N32,000) per month. The company has disclosed that Nigerians can pre-order the $600 setup hardware as it prepares to launch this year.
Expectations were rife last year following a statement by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, disclosing that SpaceX would begin the roll-out of Starlink before the end of 2022. However, the expected roll-out did not manifest.
At the time, he said:
“As part of the partnership, Space X is to provide broadband access across the whole of Nigeria, enabling nationwide access to broadband connectivity way ahead of the December 2025 schedule, as outlined in our National Broadband Plan.
However, the company has cited “pending regulatory approval” for the delays.
Although Prof Isa Pantami explained last year that some administrative problems were delaying the planned launch of Starlink. The Minister revealed via his Twitter account two days before the end of the previous year that Starlink had begun installing infrastructure in Nigeria. He stated:
“They have now commenced the deployment of their facilities in Nigeria. Nigeria is the first African country to reach that partnership & also approval for the deployment.”
What we know
In May last year, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) granted Starlink two licenses — the International Gateway license and the Internet service provider (ISP) license, which took effect immediately.
While the former has a 10-year tenure, the ISP license lasts five years. Also, the service is registered as an entity, Starlink Internet Services Nigeria Ltd., based in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital.
Elon Musk, the CEO of Space X, would later confirm the news in a tweet on May 27. He wrote that Starlink, which offers satellite internet connectivity in 32 countries it has been licensed, has been given the go-ahead in Nigeria and Mozambique.
Starlink would “service everywhere on Earth that we are legally able to serve,” according to Musk
“As part of the partnership, Space X is to provide broadband access across the whole of Nigeria, enabling nationwide access to broadband connectivity way ahead of the December 2025 schedule, as outlined in our National Broadband Plan. With this collaboration with SpaceX’s Starlink, Nigeria is set to be the 1st African country to introduce the service,” he said.
Earlier in December, the Minister also disclosed that the Nigerian government had approved Starlink’s application as a High Throughput Satellite (HTS) Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Operator in the Nigerian Telecommunications Sector.
Faster internet, but at what cost?
Despite the many bright spots of Starlink in terms of its offerings, affordability has always been the ‘bone of contention.”
Many persons initially urged SpaceX to introduce a different price regime for Africans after they found out that it will cost them $599 for the dish and router and $110 for a monthly subscription — up from $499 and $99, respectively, after a price review.
Not to mention the premium service that would cost its customers will cough out $2,500 to purchase the kit and $500 monthly for higher performance.
Some Nigerians are worried that Starlink’s hardware is too expensive to purchase. They are particularly troubled that Nigerians may only pay for the hardware and membership in US dollars, even though most Nigerian banks have banned US currency card transactions.
See the reaction of a Nigerian on Twitter:
He added that the government’s assurance that Starlink will provide internet service to Nigerians in rural areas would be impossible with the high cost of the service.
However, some Nigerians have expressed optimism even amidst complaints about what could result from the competition that the company’s arrival would do both to the industry and the cost of data and network services. A particular Twitter user said:
While there are several internet providers in Nigeria, Starlink, as an alternative to existing internet providers, might be challenging for most Nigerians. Per a recent report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), about 133 million people — out of the country’s estimated 200 million population — live in multidimensional poverty.
Still, Nigerians pay through the nose for internet service. Last year, over N3.25 trillion was spent on airtime, data, and other telecommunication services in the country.