In a momentous event for tech enthusiasts, Elon Musk’s revolutionary Starlink has finally descended upon the plains of Kenya, bringing with it the promise of high-speed broadband delivered through satellite signals. The anticipation was palpable as eager customers, who had previously paid a $99 fee to reserve Starlink, received the much-awaited notification via email about its availability. Kenya now joins a select group of African countries, including Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Nigeria, to access the transformative technology.
However, while some celebrate the advent of Starlink, others question its practicality, citing its lofty price as a major roadblock. The Starlink kit, comprising the satellite dish, mounting stand, cables, and a power source, demands a hefty KES 92,100 ($650) investment, coupled with a monthly subscription fee of KES 6,500 ($46). In sharp contrast, local ISPs like Safaricom and Zuku offer fiber-powered broadband connections at a fraction of that cost, making Starlink’s allure seem reserved for a niche market.
Emmanuel Chenze, a prominent tech blogger and ICT consultant, voiced his skepticism on Twitter, questioning the viability of Starlink in major Kenyan towns. Chenze tweeted:
“If you’re in any major town in Kenya, why would you bother with Starlink? Chances are, local ISPs very well serve your area, and there’s very good fiber connectivity where you are. Does the high initial set-up cost of Starlink make sense to you? I’m in a 2/3-person household, and the 50mbps I pay for from Safaricom is more than sufficient for our needs. It costs me 5k per month. Even in a year, I won’t have spent the 90+k you’ll spend on your Starlink set-up costs and a further 72k on the monthly subscription.”
Moreover, Starlink ISP’s current limitations add to its woes. While offering commendable downlink speeds ranging from 25 to 100Mbps and uplink speeds of 10Mbps, the service falls short for avid gamers and video callers. Latency issues and incompatibility with gaming activities have put a damper on enthusiasm.
However, some insist that the provider will offer quality, hence their prices are justified. Starlink’s mission to connect unserved and underserved areas could prove to be a boon for those residing in remote regions devoid of wireless or hardwired internet providers. In rural areas where connectivity is scarce, Starlink aims to bridge the digital divide and open up new avenues for progress.
Meanwhile, competition is gearing up, as local telco giant Safaricom plans to launch its own satellite internet services targeted at rural Kenyans. This venture, in collaboration with AST SpaceMobile, a competitor of Starlink, aims to provide space-based mobile broadband for standard mobile phones. The partnership promises to supplement existing networks and expand internet access in underserved areas, with both parties vying for market exclusivity.
As the race for reliable, high-speed internet connectivity gains momentum in Kenya, the verdict on Starlink’s success remains undecided. For now, the enchanting satellite broadband service faces the challenge of proving its worth amidst the more affordable options offered by local ISPs. Only time will tell if the stars align in Starlink’s favor or if Safaricom’s bold entry will herald a new era of connectivity for Kenya’s digital landscape.