Following the issuance of operational licences to Space Exploration Technologies Corp, SpaceX, which is owned by the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, to operate in Nigeria, millions of underserved Nigerians will receive connectivity across approximately 114 access gaps (communities lacking telecoms services) in Nigeria.
According to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s 114 access gaps currently house about 25 million Nigerians without basic telephony services. It should also be noted that where coverage is currently available, telecoms services are not optimal.
Furthermore, the arrival of Starlink is expected to boost the Federal Government’s efforts, as outlined in the National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, to achieve 70% broadband penetration, covering 90% of the population by 2025.
Analysts have already predicted that the arrival of SpaceX, which will bring Starlink into Nigeria’s over $75 billion telecoms market, will cause a paradigm shift in the country’s telecommunications services.
Starlink is a satellite Internet constellation operated by SpaceX that currently provides satellite Internet access coverage to 32 countries around the world. There are approximately 69,000 active Starlink users in the United States and other locations throughout the region.
Musk had on Friday, tweeted that Starlink had been approved by Nigeria and Mozambique to provide services. SpaceX, got six different licences, including Internet Service Provider (ISP) operational licence; International Data Access (IDA) operational licence; Full Gateway Operational licence; Sales and Installation Major (S&I- Major) licence; Gateway Earth Station (GES) Network Frequency licence per Gateway the company is to build; and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) Network Frequency licence.
Starlink’s journey into the Nigerian telecoms sector began in May 2021, when a delegation from SpaceX, a company known for its innovations, visited NCC in Abuja. The agreement was reached in Barcelona, Spain, during the annual Mobile World Congress in February 2022.
Starlink will compete with MTN Nigeria, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile, as well as other ISPs in the market. This follows a $30 billion investment by the US company to make its service available in a variety of markets, including Nigeria.
According to NCC data from the fourth quarter of 2021, there were 73 licensed ISPs with 351,817 connected subscribers, of which 198,090 were active users.
VDT Communications, Dimension Data Limited, Hypria Ltd, Layer 3, IpNX Nigeria Ltd, MainOne Cable Limited, Odua Telecoms Ltd, Tizeti Network Ltd, Cyberspace, Spectranet, among others, have only 1,879 Points of Presence (PoP) across the country, according to the NCC.
Interestingly, due to their Universal Access Service License (UASL), MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile all offer Internet service. They now have 145 million users. As of March 2021, MTN had 60 million customers, Globacom had 39.7 million, Airtel had 39.3 million, and 9mobile had 5.5 million.
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