Starlink doubles satellite internet uptake in Kenya

By Guardian Correspondent , The Guardian
Published at 11:02 AM Mar 18 2024
Photo: Guardian Correspondent

The number of Kenyans using satellite internet more than doubled in the three months to December last year, following the entry of Elon Musk’s satellite internet company Starlink into Kenya in July.

Fresh data from the Communications Authority of Kenya shows that satellite internet users rose from 1,354 in the three months to September last year, to 2,933 in the quarter ended December.

This was after Starlink launched its services in Kenya in July, reflecting a rise in uptake of the service that has traditionally been a preserve of large corporates and niche users.

The service, which uses space satellites to provide internet connection, is typically used in remote areas, where other terrestrial providers such as cable or fixed wireless links are not available.

Starlink said it was targeting remote areas when it announced its plans to launch its services in Kenya, given the stiff competition in urban zones.

While experts had expressed doubts over its success given the high initial and subscription fees it charges, Starlink appears to have proved them wrong given the enthusiastic reception.

The number of satellite internet users crossed the 1,000 mark for the first time last year during the July to September quarter, when Starlink entered the Kenyan market--an indication that its launch sparked increased interest.

Starlink debut appears to have also shifted the use of satellite internet technology to higher speeds, with 92 percent of users now having a speed of between 100 megabytes per second (Mbps) and 1 gigabyte per second (Gbps), up from zero a similar period in 2022.

This is a deviation from the norm in the usage of other fixed internet services in Kenya, of which the majority of subscribers use between 10 and 30 Mbps browsing speed.

During the period, the country’s satellite internet capacity, which reflects the total internet access speed that the technology can provide per second, increased by 4.9 percent to 0.448 Gbps.

The market share held by ‘other’ fixed internet service providers, which includes the latest entrant also rose by one percentage point to 1.8 percent, from 0.8 percent during the previous quarter.

Starlink is, however, not the only satellite internet service provider in Kenya. Others are Vizocom, Telkom’s Skynet, NTvsat, and Globaltt, among others, and Safaricom has also expressed plans to enter the business.