A new internet service provider has been approved to start operations in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) licensed Starlink, a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite internet access coverage to 32 countries, and owned by billionaire Elon Musk.
The licensing followed a visit to Nigeria by the company’s team in May last year.
Elated Elon Musk took to his Twitter handle to announce the development. The NCC has equally included Starlink among licensees in Nigeria on its website.
Musk tweeted @elonmusk, “Starlink approved by Nigeria and Mozambique.”
The Guardian learnt that the deal was actually sealed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, earlier in the year before all the paper works were completed this month.
Checks showed that the company received two licences, which include the international gateway licence and Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence, and will be trading as Starlink Internet Services Nigeria Ltd.
According to NCC, the international gateway licence has 10-year tenure, while the ISP licence is to last for five years. Both licences take effect from May 2022 and may be renewed after the expiration.
With high speeds and latency as low as 20 minutes in most locations, Starlink enables video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities that historically have not been possible with satellite Internet. Users also have the option to take Starlink with them via the Portability feature or Starlink.
In May last year, Starlink’s Market Access Director for Africa, Ryan Goodnight along with SpaceX consultant, Levin Born had paid a visit to the NCC where they expressed interest to obtain a licence to operate the satellite internet in the country.
Prior to the visit, the regulator and the space company have been discussing the issue virtually before approval for a physical meeting was granted by the NCC.
After SpaceX representatives provided an overview of its plans, expectations, licensing requests and deployment phases, the Executive Vice-Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, represented by the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services, NCC, Ubale Maska, promised them that the NCC would work on necessary modalities to ensure that it balances the need for healthy competition vis-a-vis the entry of new technologies, in order to protect all industry stakeholders.
Maska had said: “As the regulator of a highly dynamic sector in Nigeria, the Commission is conscious of the need to ensure that our regulatory actions are anchored on national interest. We have listened to your presentation and we will review it vis-à-vis our regulatory direction of ensuring effective and a sustainable telecoms ecosystem where a licensee’s operational model does not dampen healthy competition among other licensees.”