Elon Musk’s Starlink in South Africa – How it compares with fibre and 5G

Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite broadband service is now available for pre-order in South Africa, providing users around the country with affordable high-speed broadband.

Starlink uses a constellation of lower-earth orbit (LEO) satellites to offer fast Internet connectivity to its users.

The service has started taking deposits from users in locations across the world, allowing them to pay for a priority position to receive the service when it arrives in their respective regions.

Starlink coverage is set to be available in South Africa in 2022 and availability will be limited.

Many South Africans may be interested in adopting this service, especially if they live in areas without fibre or affordable wireless broadband solutions.

There are a number of important facets of satellite broadband to consider before choosing a service like Starlink over conventional Internet connections, however.

What to know about Starlink

The Starlink constellation of satellites aims to provide global, constant coverage.

This would require a significant number of satellites orbiting the Earth, however, and the network quality of the service depends largely on SpaceX’s launch schedule for its Starlink satellites.

At its current beta stage, Starlink states that it delivers speeds of between 50Mbps and 150Mbps with latency from 20ms to 40ms.

“There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all,” Starlink states.

“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations, and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically.”

Data usage on Starlink is uncapped, making the satellite broadband connection a great option for heavy data users in remote areas without fibre.

Another factor to consider is that the Starlink dish installed at your premises requires a clear view of the sky to connect.

This means inclement weather and other visual interference may result in your connection being unreliable or interrupted.

Fixed-line connections such as fibre do not suffer from this at all, and the radiofrequency spectrum bands used by fixed-LTE and 5G solutions mean they are not as greatly affected by object interference.

Monthly price and installation

South Africans who are interested in reserving a Starlink connection can pay a deposit of $99 (R1,460) to reserve their pre-order.

These orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.

The deposit amount will be subtracted from the monthly cost of $99 and upfront equipment cost of $499 once the kit is available for purchase by the customer.

It should be noted, however, paying the deposit does not guarantee you will receive the service. The deposit is also fully refundable, Starlink added.

Based on the US dollar-Rand exchange rate at the time of writing, the price of a Starlink connection in South Africa is as follows:

  • Deposit (subtracted from first monthly charge) – R1,460
  • Once-off equipment cost – R7,355
  • Monthly charge – R1,460

Price and connection comparison

We compared Starlink with existing broadband offerings that offer similar speeds and uncapped data in South Africa.

It is important to note that coverage of high-speed fibre and fixed wireless broadband connections is relatively limited in South Africa, especially compared with the nationwide coverage that will be offered by Starlink.

While the Starlink service may not compare favourably with a number of other uncapped options, it may be the best available in many areas.

Below is a comparison of the Starlink service and similar uncapped broadband services in South Africa.

Product Download/Upload speeds Latency Installation cost Price pm
Starlink 50-150Mbps 20-40ms R7,355 R1,460
YahClick (Vox) 20Mbps/6Mbps R1,670
Fibre (Vumatel)
Axxess 100Mbps/100Mbps 5ms R1,495 R1,255
Afrihost 100Mbps/100Mbps 5ms R1,247
Vox 100Mbps/100Mbps 5ms R1,199
Level-7 100Mbps/100Mbps 5ms R1,079
RSAWEB 100Mbps/100Mbps 5ms R995 R1,195
MetroFibre 100Mbps/100Mbps 5ms R1,208
Air Fibre and 5G
Supersonic Air Fibre 100Mbps/40Mbps 15-20ms R999
Rain Unlimited Home 5G Premium 200Mbps+/40Mbps 20ms R999
MTN Home 5G 500Mbps/100Mbps 15ms R1,249

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Elon Musk’s Starlink in South Africa – How it compares with fibre and 5G