Leading telecom operator Safaricom has revealed plans to bring satellite internet services to Kenya, a territory that Elon Musk’s Starlink has today also announced entry. The move is a major development for the Kenyan market, which is currently dominated by Safaricom in terms of both internet and mobile money.
Safaricom’s satellite internet will be made available through AST SpaceMobile, a Starlink rival. Vodacom, Safaricom’s parent company, has an existing partnership with AST SpaceMobile and is an investor in the satellite internet provider.
With AST SpaceMobile’s satellite internet, Safaricom would be able to build on its current broadband offerings which consumers currently enjoy through various outlets like Wi-Fi, cellular networks, and fiber optic cables. Part of Vodacom’s annual report revealed that AST SpaceMobile’s prototype satellite Bluewalker 3 took part in initial functionality testing last year. This was to prepare the satellite for an official trial in Kenya scheduled for Q2 of 2023.
Regarding potential revenue, AST SpaceMobile will split the profit 50/50 with Safaricom and other subsidiary companies of Vodacom.
What does this mean for Starlink in Kenya?
Starlink is now available in Kenya after a few months of being available in a few other countries, despite being a newcomer, Starlink bested other internet service providers in Nigeria in Q1 of 2023 with a median download speed of 110.8 Mbps.
With Safaricom eyeing the satellite internet field, Starlink may have a huge challenge on its hands. As mentioned, Safaricom’s partner, AST SpaceMobile’s technology targets mobile phones, a business move that could help Safaricom retain its dominance.