Setting Up Starlink in Nigeria & 5 Things You Need to Know About Fast Satelite Internet Service
It is no surprise that Starlink was one of the major searches on Google recently. In Nigeria, it trended for some time and continually made it to media conversations and discussions.
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One recurring theme is the evolution it has brought for internet service and the impending competition it may arouse in the market of service providers.
Starlink internet is changing the face of broadband internet as we know it. Fibre optics used to be the fastest internet broadband, but the story is gradually changing.
Like human evolution, internet service has had its transitions. Before EDGE, there was GPRS. After EDGE, 3G came. Now we have 4G and the recent 5G. At every point, there was a paradigm shift in how we use the internet. Streaming and gaming are now possible. With Starlink, the opportunity to explore the world could be unimaginably different for journalists, teachers, business owners, and every other professional who relies on an internet connection. At least, that is what Elon Musk, the founder promised.
1. The Starlink Internet Service
Starlink is a satellite internet service provider operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX that provides satellite internet access. The company has existed since 2016 but was officially launched in 2018 to begin operations. Similar to the existing service providers in Nigeria MTN, Glo, 9-mobile, Airtel, and Starlink will also be set up to sell internet access to Nigerians.
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Nevertheless, while people in urban areas have been the major internet users and, as such, the main target customers, Starlink says it will target those in rural areas and individuals in locations where internet access has been inconsistent.
“Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge,” the Starlink website reads. “Unbounded by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable,” the company’s website outlines.
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2. Starlink service reliability
According to the company, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50 to 150 megabits per second and latency from 20 to 40 milliseconds in most locations over the next several months.
Mr Musk tweeted that the service speed will be up to 300Mbs by the end of this year, 2022. This is more than twice the internet speed most Nigerians currently access.
According to testimonials issued by CNET’s John Kim, who has tested the Starlink Service at different locations, “the averaged download speeds around 78Mbps, and latency around 36ms.”
Nonetheless, the company has theoretically explained that the service can delimit over 150Mbps internet speeds in any location where the user is under a clear view of the sky.
Already, some Nigerians are patronising the service; while its popularity is not up to the bare minimum, there seem to be a lot of misconceptions and exaggerations about what the service can provide and the price. A report by Nairametrics months ago claimed the price was slashed, while another Twitter user (@UnkleAyo) said Starlink only gives 20MBPS speed.
In light of those and in anticipation of further misinformation, DUBAWA looks at some major things Nigerians need to know about Starlink’s internet services.
3. An obstruction could be a problem
To get a user experience of the Starlink hardware and how it could be set up, DUBAWA spoke to Aanuoluwapo James who currently using the Starlink service in Abeokuta. According to him, an obstruction of the small dish with the package could be a big problem. After his first installation, he only got 65Mbps speed with the dish placed inside. As he took it to the roof, it bumped up to 160Mbps out of the 200Mbps it was promised to offer. This could be a problem in raining season since the antenna has to be placed outside for maximum and effective service delivery.
4. Service location problem for Starlink users in Nigeria
Setting up the hardware at home should have been a plug-and-play process. However, Mr Aanu had a rather tougher experience mounting the service kit. During installation, he had to hunt for a Reddit group that taught him how to get the coordinates to set it up.
“Though the set-up should be easy, I didn’t know that the satellite location must match where you are. I had difficulty with my GPS knowing the exact place to input as in coordinates. While filling out my order form, I just filled in Nigeria as my service location, not knowing I needed to put my exact location.”
On how he solved the situation, he said he had to visit Reddit, a social media forum, to find answers and directions.
“After spending hours on it, I found answers on the Reddit forum where I got how to get my exact coordinates through Google Maps. Immediately, the coordinates were imputed, and my Starlink came online.”
5. Paying for Starlink
Recently, Starlink partnered with PayDay and Barter as some of its official payment channels in Nigeria. When Mr James was ordering the hardware, he revealed that though the price ($600) was stated in naira on the website, his payment was done in dollars. Starlink’s website has N268,584.00 as the hardware price but spelt out that the official rate did its calculation.
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This is against the misleading information by Nairametrics stating that Starlink slashed its price from $600 to the naira price on the website. See screenshots below:
In that light, paying for Starlink could be a lot higher than you would be charged based on the black market rate of any of the partner channels charges. Using PayCash, Mr James bought a dollar at the rate of N762/$1. Also, users’ prices could differ slightly as dollar-to-naira rates fluctuate.
6. Download speed
There have been many arguments online regarding the download speed of Starlink, a Twitter thread shows that people have different speeds based on their locations. Based on Mr James' experience, the streaming of 4k content on his smart TV has been without buffering. He admitted that the download/upload speed is relatively slow, which may suggest a bad latency rate. That could be bad for gamers. Latency speed calculates the time it takes for data to be sent from your device to a server you interact with. This is, however, different from a Twitter user’s inaccurate post that said Starlink users have 20MBPS download speed without specifying if it was; he was talking about the upload download speed.
The accessibility to satellite internet Starlink has open to people would be definitive in every stratum of human endeavour. Equipping people with basic knowledge about the service is synonymous with the literacy attempts that went into preparing people for the use of mobile phones in the early 2000s.
The researcher produced this media literacy article per the Dubawa 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship in partnership with Legit.ng to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.