Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
Vodacom to Introduce Mobile Satellite Internet in Africa Competition with Starlink

Vodacom Group is preparing to launch mobile satellite internet terminals, putting them in direct competition with Starlink to connect unserved and underserved mobile customers across Africa. Through a partnership with Amazon, Vodacom will extend 4G and 5G services in Africa using Amazon’s constellation of 3,236 satellites in low earth orbit. This partnership allows Vodacom to offer services to individuals, residential places, and businesses via customer terminals. The aim is to reach more customers across the African continent quickly. Vodacom also has plans for a direct-to-smartphone satellite service in collaboration with AST SpaceMobile. This service would connect mobile phones to a data service without a modem.

According to GSMA, Africa still has the largest coverage gaps in the world, despite the improvements in network quality and narrowing of the gap between 3G and 4G coverage. The region faces slow growth in internet speeds and high data costs. Central Africa has the widest coverage gaps, with 39% of the population residing outside a mobile broadband coverage area. West Africa follows with 16%, East Africa with 13%, and Southern Africa with 12%.

In March 2023, Amazon announced satellite receivers under Project Kuiper, targeting tens of millions of customers with terminals that will cost less than $500. Vodacom, Vodafone, and Project Kuiper are also exploring backup services and connectivity expansion for remote infrastructure. Vodacom operates in multiple African countries and has over 185 million customers. On the other hand, Starlink has 1.5 million subscribers and offers satellite internet services in select African countries. They are planning to expand to additional countries by the end of the year.