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Starlink: Stakeholders Urge NCC to Create Level Playing Ground for Operators

Starlink: Stakeholders Urge NCC to Create Level Playing Ground for Operators

Telecommunications stakeholders have called on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to create a level playing ground for players in the industry.

This is coming on the heels of the controversies surrounding the emergence of Elon Musk Satellite Internet service, Starlink in Nigeria’s telecoms sector.

The stakeholders expressed their opinions at the Telecom Sector Sustainability Forum third edition (TSSF 3.0)  organised by Business Remarks themed “Starlink: A Threat or Prospect to the Sustainability of Nigeria ISPs, MNOs and Infracos held in Lagos.

Recall, SpaceX’s satellite internet service, Starlink announced its availability in Nigeria, months after it signed an agreement with the Nigerian government to bring in its satellite-based internet coverage, thereby, making Nigeria the first African country to use satellite internet and 46th in the world.

Read Also: NCC Commends TSSF, Reiterates Commitment to Creating Enabling Environment for ISPs

Starlink was included alongside 37 other Internet Service Providers, increasing the number of ISPs issued licenses to operate in Nigeria to 255 as of September 2022, up from the 187 reported in December 2021.

Internet users believe that the introduction of Elon Musk’s satellite internet service, Starlink will widen competition in the Nigerian internet market while disrupting the internet market.

Checking out the licenses given to Starlink, stakeholders posited that the creation of a balance and fair playing field will promote healthy competition among operators, thereby protecting local players from a harsh operating environment.

According to them, the possibility is high that in the very near future if not checkmate, Starlink will be a dominant player in Nigeria and stifle the growth of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operators.

Acknowledging the fact that the emergence of Starlink has re-introduced satellite internet technology to the market space, Nigeria ICT stakeholders however noted that the telecoms regulator needs to address the business model to protect local players and create healthy competition.

Speaking at TSSF 3.0, eStream Network Chief Executive Officer, Muyiwa Ogungboye who was ably represented by the COO Mr Martins Akingba stated that Starlink can be a threat to the local ISPs if the gaps found with the solutions are treated.

According to him, if the objective of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) with Starlink’s introduction is to provide high-speed internet access to underserved and rural areas in the country, this solution will not serve the purpose.

Also Read: NCC Gives Nine Reasons as 568 Licensed ISPs Become Inactive

Stating that Starlink is not designed for the Nigerian rural market, Akingba highlighted pricing and lack of local and after-sales support as part of the reasons.

Furthermore, he said ISPs served both the retail and the enterprise markets. In his words “A lot of our enterprise market is already considering the solution but security is a major concern because they do not have an idea of how the traffic is being routed.

“As an ISPs local player, the advent of Starlink makes us question if the regulator is really careful of the investments made by players in this industry, millions of naira have already been invested in infrastructures even in the underserved areas,” he asked.

Also Read: ISPs Call for Governmental Support, Tasks ATCON for More Advocacy

The Pan African Towers Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Azeez Amida Ably represented by the General Counsel, Babatunde Olaniyan said, although Starlink was similar to Satellite TV with a strategic plan of connecting  about 4.8 million people around the world, it might both be a threat and a prospect

Azzez however noted that the wide adoption of the 5G network in Nigeria will pose a greater challenge to the solution.

“Earlier users alleged the speed was better than that of the regular Internet Service provider but this might not be able to withstand the 5G speed. More so, the $599 cost of Starlink is beyond the reach of an average Nigeria home”, he stated.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of VDT Communications, Mr Biodun Omoniyi encouraged local players not to see the solution as a threat because Starlink is a leo-satellite, not too far fetch from the satellite technology.

He posited that as a disruptor, local players need to identify the gaps and fix them to have an edge over the solution.

“There will be some adjustment in the market, and not a case of the winner takes all kind of situation. Some people will take up the solution, some will continue to rely on their mobile devices for internet access and others will be for fixed wireless access. If this happens, the consumers are provided with alternatives.” Omoniyi noted.

Although, he said being the first to launch is not really a big thing but is the industry, players and citizens are protected. Is the data accessible to the regulators, how do we do KYCs, and can the rural dwellers afford it, questions such as these need to be asked following the solution emergence in the Nigerian space.

Read: Nigerian ISPs Make N59.99 Billion Revenue in 2021 as Active Subscription Rises by 4%

Ominiyi charged the regulators to licence both the sellers, agents and providers to create a better ecosystem while encouraging operators to address their business models (pricing, positioning and support) to stay afloat and be profitable in the market.

The Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria  (ALTON) said that the benefits of Starlink in the economy were yet to be known and it should not be allowed to disrupt the process of the Internet  Service Providers  (ISPS) bringing to remembrance the extinction of CDMA in the Nigerian Telecoms market. He also make case for affordable internet service for consumers.

The President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr Ikechukwu   Nnamani said the government need to address the immediate concerns of consumers on Starlink as it was not beneficial to the national economy.

Nnamani said that the motivation behind licensing was to provide broadband penetration, especially to the rural area but the sustainability and affordability of the average Nigerian in the rural areas should be considered.

Represented by the Executive Secretary ALTON, Mr Ajibola Olude, Nnamani said the local content being encouraged by the government could be affected as well as leads to cuts in the workforce by the telecommunications sector.

The President, Nigeria Internet Group, Mr Destiny Amana noted that Starlink was a good initiative to start within rural areas in Nigeria as it would aid telemedicine as a result of the quality of the internet and its speed.

Amana said that the Nigerian environment was not considered before licensing Starlink because an average Nigerian would deal with a company that has an office and offers Customer Services which Starlink do not have.

Also Read: ISPs Need to Restrategize for Sustainable Growth, Profitability – WTES Projects

He said that the pricing was not friendly to an average Nigerian and the latency would not be strong without a quality line of light.

The Chief Executive Officer,  Equinox Core Technology, Mr Lanre Olarenwaju said that stakeholders should be called on issues before introducing  Starlink into the country.

Olarenwaju said that the national economy would not benefit from this since VAT or tax would not be paid to the economy. ‘’It is like Nigeria is a dumping ground for Starlink, taking and not bringing anything’’.

About Bukola Olanrewaju

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