Starlink prices

This week’s newsletter is a brief look at Starlink’s prices. Starlink has generated a lot of buzz in some countries and has been touted as the solution to closing the rural connectivity gap. Starlink has acquired a license in Malawi and also in Zambia and is projected to be available in the first quarter of 2023. It has applied for a license in Tanzania. Its service is currently available in North America, Europe, Australia, Brazil and Chile. It is available in Ukraine, though on a waitlist basis. 

There is no doubt about Starlink’s potential from an access point of view. It’s easily deployable and it’s equipment requirements are really low in comparison to alternatives like mobile or fibre. All it needs is a satellite dish and a power source. Also, its bandwidth cap is 1 terabyte of data, which in mobile terms is enormous. But is it still a feasible option for low-income users in Africa? In the table below is a list of prices for Starling and for 20GB of prepaid mobile data.

 Starlink monthly fee USDCheapest prepaid broadband package for 20GB in USD
Brazil 444.77
United Kingdom9017.67
MalawiNot yet operational 9.04
ZambiaNot yet operational 6.23
NigeriaNot yet operational 11.79
Sources Starlink website, country sitesRIS Global Pricing Database 

For the amount of bandwidth, Starlink looks like an amazing deal and its prices vary depending on local conditions. But its entry point is way higher and it is clearly not targeted at low income users. We can assume that Malawi and Zambia would be on the low-end of the pricing scale, around Brazil. But there is no way that a low income rural user can afford a monthly bill of even USD40. Also, mobile broadband has the significant advantage that you can buy as little as you can afford. If your budget is only USD1 this month, then that is what you buy. Starlink doesn’t have that option yet. Starlink does have a business option for USD635 per month (and your equipment costs are also much higher than the residential version) but it’s not clear how exactly billing would work in terms of selling access. Starlink is an appealing option but what the business model is for low-income users is not yet clear. 

Other news from around Africa 

  • MTN in Ghana: As per SIM registration requirements, MTN will start to deactivate 5.7 million subscriptions in Ghana from 1 December. 
  • Mobile coverage in Zambia: The Zambian government has targeted 100% coverage by 2024. 
  • Satellite coverage in Africa: World Mobile is expanding its network across Africa using Starlink as a backhaul for its local access points called Airnodes. Maybe this the business model for low income users in Africa?