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Satellite-based internet provided by Starlink, is about three times faster than the available products on the Rwandan market at almost the same price, which make it relatively affordable, according to the Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire.

The Minister made the remarks while responding to a question from MP Frank Habineza on whether the Starlink internet will be affordable, during the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies in which she was providing answers to issues affecting the ICT sector.

On February 6, The New Times published an article in which the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) announced that it had issued a license to Starlink, satellite internet constellation, to operate in the country, with its operations due to begin in the first quarter of 2023.

Starlink is operated by SpaceX, a spacecraft manufacturing company founded by American billionaire Elon Musk.

nformation from RSA indicates that Starlink’s services are expected to increase the level of broadband competitiveness in the country as the end-user services will cost Rwf48,000 for a bandwidth of up to 150 Mbps, while for the enterprises the bandwidth can go up to 350 Mbps.

According to Ken's Tech Tips, a UK's guide to mobile technology and broadband, since 2005, with a 150Mbps connection, you can download files fairly quickly.

For instance, it indicated, a music album will download in around five seconds and a HD-quality movie will download in about four minutes. Browsing the internet and receiving emails should be near-instantaneous on a 150Mbps connection.

Also, it indicated, with such internet connection, you can make video calls, listen to music and watch video online on multiple devices at the same time.

Referring to the information from RSA, MP Habineza said that Rwf48,000 a month for the 150 Mbps internet speed per second, would be a high cost for many Rwandans.

“You realise that, though we will get high speed internet, the prices will still be high such that it would be difficult for people to access it,” he said.

Speaking to The New Times, Habineza proposed that such a cost be lowered for the sake of internet affordability.

“I propose that the Starlink internet price should be priced a lower price than that of the available products on the market,” he told The New Times, suggesting that it should be somewhere between Rwf20,000 and Rwf30,000 per month, for it to be relatively affordable to Rwandans.

High capacity and affordability

Responding to MP Habineza’s query, Minister Ingabire said that compared to the capacity that is being provided and the available prices, “it is obvious that the capacity that is provided by Starlink is very high where it can be between two or three times faster.”

“And when you look at the cost, based on the output that is a half or a third of the capacity that Starlink provides, you realise that its cost is very low than the available products,” she pointed out.

“So, considering the services that are offered currently, we find that the Starlink price is very good, given the capacity it is providing us which is higher than the already available packages,” she indicated.

Meanwhile, she said that the internet cost might be high for one household that needs such a service; but pointed out that its capacity might, usually, not be needed by a household.

“As it is a capacity that might be needed by a health facility, a market where there are many people who can benefit from it, schools or public entities, it means that if you look at the number of people who can benefit from such economies of scale versus the cost, it is more cost-effective,” she said.

MP Francis Karemera said that the fact that Starlink will provide high speed internet through the use of satellite, “it means that it will do it effectively, and the internet would be affordable”, calling for prioritising school connection to such internet to support education.

“But, if this internet of Starlink has a footprint coverage for the entire country, and as its prices are affordable ... we would like the Minister to help us so that the connectivity starts with schools that are not connected, or those that are connected but do not have means to pay for it,” he said.

Ingabire said that “Starlink services come to fill the need and gap of [internet] connectivity.” - Emmanuel Ntirenganya, The New Times

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