Could Elon Musk SpaceX Service Solve Africa Internet Challenge?

During a keynote held via videoconferencing on 29 June at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Elon Musk promoted Starlink, his satellite internet constellation, whose ambition is to cover Africa and the rest of the continent with broadband within a few months.

Meanwhile, the SpaceX team has already identified Nigeria and South Africa as the first two countries to launch its Starlink service. The company is already discussing with the two country regulators to obtain a local license—Starlink, a low-earth orbiting (LOE) constellation satellite that provides low latency, high bandwidth internet service.

Deciding Factor for the Service in Africa

It is yet to be known how the company will provide affordable service to the African market. Unlike the service cost in countries they have launched, a subscriber pays an initial $499 to get the equipment (a satellite dish, a tripod, a power cable, and router) and then $499 every month connection fees. According to the company based in Los Angeles, the service provides 50-150 megabits per second for a latency of 20 to 40 milliseconds. In comparison, a 4G connection offers 80-90 Mbps with an average latency of 50 milliseconds. However, the SpaceX service could easily be made available to remote areas and rural areas in Africa. Unlike the terrestrial telecom companies that find it challenging due to the inability to provide stable internet service to capture this set of demography. At the same time, the ongoing digital project in Africa will create a level playing field for a competitive market for the whole internet ecosystem in Africa.

Nonetheless, in the era of affordable internet, that will be the years we will begin a new dawn of immerse connectivity for Africans. The consumer will start to experience immensely broadband connection in underserved and unserved demography. This is where SpaceX Starlink service could be a game-changer for the ICT domain in Africa because of its target for remote areas. Even though, as mentioned, the SpaceX Starlink service has been said to be out of economic reach for most African. Still, during the team meeting with the Nigeria regulators, SpaceX’s team was led by Ryan Goodnight, market access director for Africa, and supported by Levin Born and a consultant for the company said. “They are working with industry regulator (NCC) for permits to pipe broadband via satellite, bringing a new domain in the ICT space in the country.

In addition, the agency said it would work on necessary modalities to ensure that it balances the need for healthy competition concerning new technologies to protect all industry stakeholders from its internet satellite service and provide affordable internet. Notwithstanding, it is yet to be known maybe it will give a different strategy for the African market.

Ongoing Project in Africa

The inevitable fibre Optics project using a submarine cable to connect Africa of 3G-4G service expected to be completed by 2023 been carried out by notable multinational brands like Facebook, Orange, Huwai, and ZTE. Though SpaceX will be a decisive factor, the team is promoting the SpaceX service to connect areas not covered by fibre optics frequencies of 3G and 4G. Even though Musk said he is looking to invest $20-30bn in the project to continue launching a satellite at the recent conference, he is expected to acquire half a million customers over the next 12 months. Nonetheless, the fibre optics that plan to connect Africa is expected to create affordable internet access to the Africa populace.

Challenges and Opportunities

Internet access and the high cost of internet data bundles have been challenges that have rocked the continent over the years. According to GSMAssociation, there is a coverage gap of 800 million people who live in areas not covered by networks. Forty-four per cent of the world’s uncovered population was in sub-Saharan Africa. This translate to a considerable proportion gap for those without access to essential internet and those with access that couldn’t afford the service due to expensive internet data bundles for relatively low-income demography. The 2018 report by the Ecobank Research team backed this up, which reports says, Africa has the most expensive mobile data in real and income-relative terms. For example, Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland, the three most costly countries. A gigabyte of data cost more than 20$ across the continent; the average price is estimated at $7.04, with several countries recording prices above the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development target of 2 per cent of monthly income. The Commission defines the internet as affordable when 1.5 gigabytes of mobile data are priced at no more than 2 per cent of average income.

Consequently, as mentioned in the article, the colossal gap can be attributed to the lack of enabling broadband infrastructure. To capture remote areas by telecommunication operators and provide complete internet services, especially those in densely populated areas, the set of demography still experience uneven and fluctuates services between concrete, state-of-the-art constructions, and rudimentary and insufficient equipment to serve this population. Surfing the internet is never a pleasant experience especially accessing video content or live-streaming. The geographical coverage neglects 22% of the people who don’t have access to either 3G or 4G. While societal issues, 52% of Africans covered by mobile broadband do not use it, mainly because of its cost of internet bundles.

Impact on Gaming Industry

It will propel all industries and bring economic growth to Africa for different sectors that rely on digitalization. It will see the increase in internet penetration and widespread use of mobile internet users, critical to the iGaming industry healthcare, financial institutions, and e-commerce. Interestingly, the Africa gaming industry is touted to be a mainstream industry and a game-changer in years to come as the growing African population is expected to double by 2030. In addition, 83% of global population growth is predicted to reach from Africa; in simple words, by 2100, one in three people on the planet will live in Africa. This population rate is expected to demand everything, from the young digital natives mainly access to digital infrastructural needs.

Mobile adoption, health care, financial service, education, tech, e-commerce, and the iGaming sector will have their fair share of traction from a new set of players. Consequently, this has put the region on the world map as the next big destination to invest in the continent.

About Post Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.