Starlink expands its influence: Elon Musk’s firm debuts in Africa and Southeast Asia

Elon Musk can parade: his start-up Starlink is now officially active on “the seven continents” of our planet. For many countries that want to boost and generalize their connection to the Internet, the South African billionaire’s micro-satellites seem ideal. What offer him a future monopoly?

The war in Ukraine was a good publicity stunt for some very specific firms. In armament in particular, but not only: Starlink is certainly part of the lot. Elon Musk’s mini-satellite network communications company has indeed come to the rescue of Ukraine from the first days of Russia’s invasion of that country, providing it with access to the global Internet in a record and despite jamming attempts.

The best for poorly connected countries and their rural areas

A performance that makes Starlink appear as the providential fast connection provider for certain countries. This is the case in the Philippines where, on May 26, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) approved the registration of Starlink Internet Services Philippines Inc, a subsidiary of SpaceX which will provide broadband via satellite to the archipelago. In a statement, the commission said it had approved Starlink’s registration as a “Value-Added Service Provider (VAS)”, allowing the company “direct access to satellite systems, and to build and operate broadband facilities to provide Internet services. »

Starlink should cover villages in urban and suburban areas as well as rural areas that remain underserved, if at all, by Internet access services. Internet penetration in the Philippines stood at 67% of the country’s 110 million people in January 2021, according to data from DataReportal, an independent data collector.

One foot in Africa

Almost at the same time, the South African billionaire’s start-up set foot in Africa for the first time: a few hours after the Philippines, Mozambique and Nigeria will call on its services, reports Space News.

According to the Nigeria-based Nairametrics publication, Starlink has been licensed as an Internet Service Provider (ISP), a category that terrestrial telecommunications operators also fall into, and the license will need to be renewed in 10 years. In Mozambique, the national regulator INCM has confirmed that it has been working on this file with Starlink since last February.

“One of Starlink’s big bets is to bring ultra-fast broadband to the African continent by the end of 2022, which will enable expansion to more people and places, with a focus on rural areas and other areas not served until today,” INCM said in the press release.

More and more African Internet users

Many African countries are indeed struggling to ensure a sufficient connection while demand is growing exponentially. In Nigeria, 50% of the population is connected, but the number of Internet users has increased by 19 million (+22%) between 2020 and 2021 according to figures from DataReportal. In Mozambique, coverage was only 21.2% of the population in January 2021, but the number of Internet users has also increased there, by 1.4 million this time (+ 25%) between 2020 and 2021.

Starlink’s regulatory approvals mean the low Earth orbit network “is now licensed on all seven continents,” the SpaceX Twitter account added. And the company intends to put the package on Africa as early as 2023 if possible, as long as its competitors still have some catching up to do in the deployment of their respective satellite networks. It’s a real race for close orbit and globalized connection that Musk has launched, starting with a good head start.

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