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Why you’ll need at least Sh100,000 to install Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet


Why you’ll need at least Sh100,000 to install Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet

Monday July 24 2023

The Starlink photo is seen on a mobile device on September 21, 2022. PHOTO | AFP

That Elon Musk-owned satellite Internet firm Starlink’s product is finally available in Kenya has drawn significant excitement in the market, with some consumers drawing parallels between the existing offerings and the new promise that service brings.

One factor glaringly buried underneath the exhilaration is the question of the cost, which an interested user will have to incur to enjoy the new service.

Read: Elon Musk's satellite data firm enters Kenya market

A Business Daily analysis has established that for the home-use package, a subscriber in Kenya will be required to cough not less than Sh100,000 to get a taste of the new promise, a figure that could be off-putting for a majority of typical users as it is almost a ten-fold increase from what rival products cost.

A huge chunk of the charge is in the purchase of the hardware kit that includes the Starlink dish, a mounting stand, cables and a power source for Sh89,000. The shipping fee to Kenya is Sh3,100.

The user would have had to first book the kit at a non-refundable fee of Sh14,000 ($99).

After installation of the equipment, the pays an activation fee of Sh6,500, which is also the monthly subscription charge.

Hardware kit for an office package costs Sh349,106 plus a shipping charge of Sh7,500, while the monthly subscription is Sh13,572.

The payment regime is a far cry from what users are subjected to by local providers like Safaricom and Zuku where customers usually receive hardware components such as routers whose cost is almost the same as the monthly subscription charge.

“What’s the point of getting Starlink if their Internet service is expected to be possibly slower or the same as what you have at home or on 4G or 5G in Kenya? Not to mention the high cost of acquiring the Starlink terminal?” queries Moses Kemibaro, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Dotsavvy Africa.

“That said, this is Kenya. So, consumers and businesses are always keen to try the next big thing in technology, and Starlink is no exception. There will be scenarios where it could be the only viable alternative in remote locations.”

Software developer Ayub Kimani says the service would be a game-changer in the industry.

“Starlink is expected to be more expensive than traditional Internet providers in Kenya, but it is likely to be faster and more reliable. Its arrival is likely to increase competition in the Internet market, which could lead to lower prices and better service for consumers,” he says.

Although Starlink’s entry into Kenya is still in the early stages and it is not yet clear how widely its service will be available locally, it has identified Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa and Nakuru as the first-stop points.

Kenya becomes the sixth African country to be explored for business by Starlink after Nigeria, Mozambique, Mauritius, Rwanda and Comoros.

The Starlink system, unlike fibre-powered connections, 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.

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

The firm has, however, indicated that users in Kenya will only be able to engage in common Internet activities like mailing, online shopping or streaming movies while services like online gaming and video calling would be limited.

The service will be tailored for both fixed and mobile applications, including vehicle-mounted solutions for use on the go as well as on boats and ships operating both inland and offshore.

Read: Elon Musk's tech firm eyes Kenya entry by June

However, Safaricom is not sitting pretty as it plans to launch a parallel satellite Internet service in the local market through a partnership with Starlink’s Texas-based rival AST SpaceMobile, which has signed agreements with the telco’s parent firm Vodafone Group.

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