Image source: TC Insights
In January 2023, Starlink, the satellite internet service owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, commenced operations in Nigeria, marking a significant milestone as the first African country to receive the service. Since then, it has expanded its reach to four additional African nations, including Rwanda, Mozambique, Mauritius, and Sierra Leone, with plans to launch in nineteen more African countries by 2024.
Mobile internet penetration in Africa remains at 43%, below the global average of 66%. Starlink’s emergence in Africa heralded promises of broader connectivity with download speeds up to 220Mbps. However, real-world performance is subject to variables such as latency and weather conditions.
Recent Q2 data from Ookla, an internet and connectivity intelligence firm, paints a nuanced picture of Starlink’s global performance. Starlink has demonstrated promising download speeds in Africa, but its upload speeds present a mixed scenario. Starlink’s median upload speed of 13.72Mbps in Nigeria surpasses the combined average of 10.6Mbps from other providers, enhancing its value proposition. Conversely, in Rwanda, Starlink’s upload speed lags behind other ISPs, averaging just 6.88Mbps compared to 10.05Mbps. Ookla observes that Starlink’s upload speeds generally align with the company’s expectations, falling within the 5 to 20 Mbps range. This area remains a focal point for improvement if Starlink aims to solidify its presence in Africa.
Whether Starlink is poised to become the preferred internet provider for Africans seems unlikely in the near term. Ookla noted, “Satellite-based services can play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide by extending internet reach beyond existing fixed networks, especially in areas where fiber deployed isn’t commercially viable, offering competitive speeds.
“However, its high equipment cost might limit Starlink’s customer adoption in the near future. Instead, the operator can address enterprise customers as the satellite already serves a range of enterprise verticals, such as banking, logistics, and transport.”
As Starlink continues its expansion across Africa, its performance metrics indicate both promise and challenges. Its ability to address issues like upload speeds and cost-effectiveness will be crucial in determining its long-term impact on internet accessibility in Africa.
Get all our reports here and watch videos from our events. Got any research requests? Send them to us here.