Elon Musk announced via a tweet that the government of Nigeria has approved Starlink as an Internet Service Provider. Starlink is high-speed internet access delivered via low earth orbital satellites (LEO). Starlink solves the problems of access and speed of internet services in Nigeria, especially in rural areas. According to the “Digital 2022 Nigeria” report by Data Reportal internet penetration in Nigeria stands at 51% as of January 2022. Thus, 49% of Nigerians, or 104.9 million Nigerians, did not use the internet.
The low uptake is because of the infrastructure deficit in Nigeria. Nigerians get internet access mainly via data by GSM companies like MTNN and Airtel Nigeria. There are not enough physical cell phone towers to beam data across Nigeria, especially in the rural areas. 53.4% of Nigerians live in urban centers, and 46.6% live in rural areas.
Speed is a crucial advantage of Starlink. Ookla shows that the average mobile internet speed via cellular is 17.38Mbps, while a fixed internet wireless connection is 10.06Mbps. In contrast, Starlinks’ speed is 104Mbps, ten times as fast. For context, the US FCC defines broadband as having speeds over 25Mbps or more.
With faster internet services, more internet applications can become operational in Nigeria. We can fit all commercial trucks with trackers. This is to provide accurate and timely information on traffic flow to aid road safety and other emergency crews. They could theoretically connect all branches of the bank online. And also in real-time to the head office, reducing the transaction time for clearing checks in the economy.
The big win will be a fall in the data prices in Nigeria. We can look Starlink at as more “supply”. Even though its target is the underserved internet locations, its speed will make it a viable option for all Nigerians. Many startups in “high speed” Lagos will gladly pay to access speeds over 100Kmps. This new competition introduced by Starlink will see prices falling, which is excellent.