Kenyans to pay highest Starlink set-up fees in Africa

The Starlink photo is seen on a mobile device. 

Photo credit: File | AFP

Kenya and Mozambique will be charged the highest prices to install satellite Internet on Elon Musk-owned Starlink compared to the other four countries where the technology is available in Africa, a Business Daily analysis now shows.

The installation, whose biggest cost is the purchase of the hardware kit that consists of the Starlink dish, a mounting stand, cables and a power source, is currently in six African countries —Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia and Malawi.

A spot check, however, shows that there exists a difference of up to Sh36,067 between the highest-paying country and the one with the lowest installation fee, representing a 38.2 percent gap.

Mozambique users, who first experienced availability of the service in June this year, are the highest charged at $634 (Sh94,504) followed by Kenyans who are required to part with $597.1 (Sh88,999) for the hardware purchase as Nigerian subscribers pay the lowest fee of $392.2 (Sh58,437).

The Nigerian figure closely borders that levied on Rwandan users who are required to pay $397.98 (Sh59,322) while those in Zambia and Malawi face a $499 (Sh74,389) and $568.6 (Sh84,749) charge, respectively.

The other costs, which include the monthly subscription payments and the shipping fees, only differ marginally across the six markets, with Kenyans paying Sh6,500 and Sh3,100, respectively for the two services.

This means that a user in Kenya would require an upfront amount of at least Sh98,599 to purchase the kit and finalise the installation procedure, while a counterpart in Nigeria would need to part with only Sh69,113 as the shipping and monthly subscription charges in the Bola Tinubu-led country are set at Sh3,259 and Sh7,417, respectively.

Other countries in the continent that the X (formerly Twitter) owner has earmarked for the launch of the Internet service by next year include Tanzania, Comoros, Mauritius, Eswatini and Sierra Leone.

Satellite dishes

Unlike the legacy fibre-powered network connections, the Starlink technology consists of a vast network of small satellites in low earth orbit, flying at altitudes between 340 and 1,200 kilometres.

Users on the ground access the Internet via phased-array user terminals, commonly known as satellite dishes.

These dishes automatically align themselves with the passing satellites, allowing for a continuous and stable Internet connection.

The Starlink satellite technology supports services that are not possible with traditional terrestrial solutions, allowing unmodified smartphones to connect to satellites in areas with coverage gaps.

A major gain in using Starlink is its potential to deliver high-speed Internet with low latency, making it ideal for rural or remote areas where traditional Internet services are limited or unreliable.

On the downside, the off-putting installation cost is likely to be shunned by the targeted users in Africa’s rural settings, as it is an almost ten-fold increase from what rival products cost.

About a fortnight ago, Starlink appointed e-commerce platform Jumia Technologies as its first distributor of satellite terminals and connectivity kits as a strategy to increase the penetration rate into the African market.

Jumia will help Starlink sell terminals in areas that lack formal addresses and city mapping while reaping from being the first to bag the distributorship deal in Africa.

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