Kenya’s leading telco giant, Safaricom, is in the works to launch satellite internet services. This is in a bid to compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink. Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by American aerospace company SpaceX. The company started its commercial operations in February 2021.They currently operate in 56 countries with rapid expansion expected. It is currently available only in 4 countries in Africa with plans to launch in other countries by the end of 2023. They are Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique and Rwanda.

Starlink promises to provide dowload speeds of upto 250 Mbps and uploads of upto 35 Mbps and has already named a local internet company, Karibu Connect, as its first authorised distributor in the country. Its Kenya home users will be rewquired to fork out Ksh 89,000 ($628) for installation with the monthly subscription costing Ksh 6,500($46) and a shipping fee of Ksh 3,100($22).

Safaricom are keen on tapping this emerging market and have partnered with AST SpaceMobile. AST SpaceMobile is a US based company that is a rival to Starlink. Bluewalker 3, AST SpaceMobile’s prototype satellite has already undergone initial testing and is expected to be in trial in the country. The trial is expected to coincide with trials by other operators in the Vodacom group. “After successfully completing the trial, AST SpaceMobile will scale up their satellite deployments in partnership with Vodacom to provide ubiquitous communications to 4G devices across Africa and beyond,” Vodacom said.

Having a tight hold in the country’s telco scene, Safaricom’s partnership looks promising with the ability to maintain its market dominance in Kenya. AST SpaceMobile and Safaricom are expected to share revenue on a 50/50 basis with both parties working to maintain mutual exclusivity in order to ensure success.

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