Elon Musk’s Starlink launches internet services in Rwanda

On 22 February 2023 at 10:23

Starlink, a satellite-based internet service provider owned by billionaire Elon Musk has begun to provide high speed internet services in Rwanda where clients will initially be required to pay around Rwf600, 000.

The ceremony to officially launch Starlink’s services in Rwanda took place on 22nd February 2023.

It brought together various dignitaries including the Minister if ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire; the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Space Agency, Francis Ngabo and representatives from Starlink among others.

Starlink is a satellite network developed by American Spacecraft company, SpaceX, to provide ‘low cost’ to remote locations.

It is expected to provide high speed internet and help Rwanda roll out internet services to remote areas.

Starlink will use over 3,500 satellites deployed in the space to provide the internet.

The company continues to upgrade its capacity as it has license to deploy 12,000 satellites in the space and has requested for a go-ahead to increase the number to 30,000.

Clients will cater for the cost of monthly subscription fees and equipment required to receive the internet. These include a satellite dish which can be placed on top of the house or elsewhere among other accessories.

It is expected that the monthly subscription will be set at Rwf48,000 while equipment will cost Rwf572,000 making a total of Rwf620,000.

Starlink internet is available in more than 30 countries around the world.

The Global Innovation Index (GII) report released by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) recently ranked Rwanda as the leading low-income country in Sub-Saharan Africa with the fastest broadband speed.

Starlink is a satellite Internet constellation operated by SpaceX, and the latest Broadband Internet licensee on the Rwandan Market.

This licensing, granted by the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA), will provide high-speed internet services with significantly affordable pricing models in Rwanda through a network of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, improving internet access in remote and rural areas where traditional wireless, cable, and fiber optic infrastructure is often limited or lacking. During the testing phase, the internet service achieved average speeds of up to 150 Mbps, with very low latency of 20 to 40 ms.

As part of ongoing efforts to connect all schools with broadband internet, the Rwandan Government has scoped out 500 remote schools to be equipped with satellite internet terminals, providing high-speed internet access and digital learning resources for both students and teachers. This will improve quality of education in the country and increase connectivity in remote and rural areas. The satellite broadband services will also serve in many other areas, connecting communities and powering innovations.

By increasing access to digital resources, the program has the potential to bridge the digital divide in the education sector and create new opportunities for e-learning, online entrepreneurship, and digital services. It can also improve the quality of life for those living in remote areas and help spur economic growth and development.

Overall, the government’s program to equip schools with satellite internet terminals is a significant step towards improving access to education and digital resources in the country.

The Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire has expressed enthusiasm about the launch of Starlink’s satellite broadband internet service in Rwanda that comes to compliment other existing efforts and expands the local broadband industry.

She stated that "Access to high-quality broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s digital age. By launching Starlink services in Rwanda, we are taking a significant step forward in our commitment to creating a smart nation that promotes inclusivity, advances the digital society, and boosts the digital economy. Our new broadband policy will help to spur investment, create jobs, and provide affordable and quality broadband services to all Rwandans."

The Minister emphasized that the government aims to promote healthy competition and innovation in the broadband industry by removing regulatory barriers that may hinder the entry of new technologies and services into the market. This approach will guarantee that all consumers have access to high-quality and affordable broadband services, regardless of their location or place of work.

RSA’s recent licensing of Starlink is in alignment with the Government’s National Broadband policy and strategy, which aims to upscale the capacity and reach of broadband networks. In his statement, the CEO of Rwanda Space Agency, Francis Ngabo added: “We are glad to welcome Starlink services in Rwanda. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to create a conducive environment to attract other satellite operators to the Rwandan market.”

The Ministry of ICT and Innovation, fully dedicated to providing reliable, affordable, and accessible satellite broadband to all citizens, aims to extend the reach of its efforts and make significant progress towards a more connected and digitally inclusive society by fostering partnerships with industry leaders and opening up the market for more players to join.