Starlink’s internet speed rattles competition

Starlink, a satellite internet provider that went live in Nigeria on Monday, has left many subscribers who can afford it excited over its super speed capability.

Starlink hardware and shipping comes at a cost of N276,000 ($600). The monthly subscription is pegged at N19,780 ($43) making it the most expensive internet service in the country. But many Nigerians, especially entrepreneurs, and businesses may be driven more by the speed than the high cost. Starlink says Nigeria is the first African country where the service is going live.

“Most companies rely heavily on the internet, including banks, government organisations, small and medium-sized firms, and huge multinationals. Individuals such as developers, digital marketers, and remote workers may all attest to challenges such as insufficient bandwidth, poor connection, frequent downtime, “unlimited” plans with caps, and several concerns. This will be a thing of the past with Starlink. According to surveys conducted between 2021 and today, Starlink is one of the world’s fastest and most dependable internet service providers,” said Abdulrahman Tunde, a cyber security expert.

Tayo Oviosu, CEO of Paga Communications, a fintech company, posted the result of a speed test he conducted on Starlink and fibre broadband in Lagos. The two diagrams he posted on his verified Twitter handle showed Starlink with a wide lead of 230Mbps compared to fibre internet at 14Mbps. Starlink also boasts a latency of 132 milliseconds for Lagos while fibre has six milliseconds of latency.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends that 100 Mbps be considered minimum broadband. Ookla, a company that tracks internet speeds, found that the median internet speed in the US in October 2022 for fixed broadband was around 182 Mbps download and 22 Mbps upload. Nigeria on the other hand records 11.40 Mbps downloads and 9.87 Mbps upload for fixed broadband making the country one of the lowest ranked at 145th. The recently launched 5G service by MTN boasts a speed of 130 Mbps.

Hence, internet download speeds of 200 Mbps and 20 Mbps are considered an enormous leap and would excite the emerging tech-driven entrepreneurs in the country. Anything with 200 Mbps will be able to handle multiple online activities for numerous users without interruption.

Starlink, therefore, poses new competitive pressures for existing operators. According to Ookla, Airtel which counts 22.42 Mbps download speed leads the industry although it wobbles in latency at 26 milliseconds compared to 9Mobile at 33 milliseconds.

However, Nigerian subscribers can only order Starlink from the website using dollar cards which can cost more given the extra fees.

“Noticed that while the pricing (using the official rate) on the website is in naira, you can only use dollar cards to pay for Starlink in Nigeria,” said Temidayo Oniosun, managing director Space in Africa. “Someone needs to solve this forex remittance issue; else, very soon, naira cards would become useless,” he added.

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