South Africans should not expect that SpaceX will have cheaper Starlink packages available once the service is launched in the country in 2022.
The high-speed, low-latency satellite Internet service is currently priced at a monthly fee of $99 (R1,441) in the US, £89 (R1,782) in the UK, and C$129 (R1,488) in Canada.
This provides the user with download speeds of between 80Mbps to 150Mbps, upload speeds of about 30Mbps, and latency of around 30ms.
Many followers of Starlink developments have said they would use the service if SpaceX offered more affordable pricing on packages with performance caps – like limits on download speeds.
This does not appear to be part of SpaceX’s plans for the service, however.
Speaking during a panel discussion at the Satellite 2021 LEO Digital Forum on Tuesday, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said she did not think tiered pricing would be offered.
“We’re going to try to keep it as simple as possible and transparent as possible, so right now there are no plans to tier for consumers,” she added.
Starlink is primarily intended for users in rural and semi-urban areas, so it is not expected to compete with connectivity technologies which are common in densely-populated locations – such as fibre.
Nevertheless, comments by MyBroadband readers have indicated interest in using the service these locations, given that fibre connectivity is yet to reach many suburbs and some have been limited to using expensive mobile broadband products.
While Starlink’s prices are competitive when compared to current satellite connectivity, they are expensive when measured against other uncapped technologies.
In addition, the user has to pay for Starlink equipment – which includes an antenna, router, and cabling – priced at $499 in the US and £439 in the UK, or C$649 in Canada.
These prices will likely mean that Starlink will appeal to more affluent customers in rural areas while urban customers with other cheaper options will steer clear.
Calculating the price
It’s unclear if Starlink’s equipment or monthly fee will be offered at local pricing when it launches in South Africa in 2022.
However, in other territories where pre-orders for the service have also opened – like Europe and Australia – deposits are already indicated in those regions’ currencies.
South Africa’s deposit amount is currently charged at the US dollar price of $99.
This could be an indication that Starlink’s South African price will be pegged to that currency.
If this turns out to be the case, the exact price for Starlink would still be difficult to determine at this stage.
The Rand is a highly volatile currency, as evidenced by its performance in 2020, when it traded between R13.99 and R19.35 to the dollar.
At current exchange rates, Starlink will be priced at around R1,500 per month, without the equipment cost taken into account.
For those within a fibre network footprint, using Starlink would therefore not make sense.
There are now multiple fibre ISPs in South Africa offering 100Mbps packages at around R1,000 per month. Axxess even offers a 200Mbps package at R1,045 on the Frogfoot network.
The table below shows possible pricing for Starlink in South Africa at various exchange rates to the US dollar.
|Starlink expected pricing in South Africa|
|Exchange rate (R/$)||Equipment ($499)||Monthly price ($99)|