Starlink: Shooting for the stars

Revolutionising internet connectivity and bridging the digital divide in LatAm.

Starlink, developed by Space X, is revolutionising internet connectivity in Latin America and bridging the digital divide. Since its establishment in 2019, Starlink has been on a mission to conquer the global internet scene, even reaching the farthest corners of the world, including rural Latin America. 

By the beginning of 2022, Starlink was already operating in six Latin American countries, making itself at home in Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Chile. And it doesn’t stop there! Over the past few months, the company has expanded its operations to include Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands), Panama and received the regulatory thumbs-up in Guatemala.  

However, according to an Argentine telecommunications lawyer, “Plans have been delayed somewhat in Argentina, as Starlink was expected to start providing services at the end of 2022 … But today the talk is that the launch will not be until 2024.” The local lawyer is sceptical on those dates but acknowledges Starlink’s arrival would be very positive because Argentina is lagging, “The constant economic and institutional problems, in one way or another, have been delaying a fundamental tender such as 5G!”   

“Plans have been delayed somewhat in Argentina, as Starlink was expected to start providing services at the end of 2022 … But today the talk is that the launch will not be until 2024.”

A telecommunications lawyer, Argentina

In Argentina, the marketing and pricing details of Starlink are still uncertain but as our sources comment, “It is expected to be an expensive product. Or more expensive than what is being offered today.” The government’s tight control over prices may change with the arrival of a new product like Starlink and over time, prices may decrease but it is difficult to determine the extent and timing. The ongoing tender for 5G in Argentina is also affecting the telecommunications landscape and our sources expect a lot of movement between now and the end of 2024.  

Elon Musk’s interest in Argentina extends beyond Starlink, for example our sources told us that Mr Musk has been interested in the production of lithium in the province of Catamarca, which could be used to manufacture Tesla’s electric cars, “Representatives from Starlink came to Argentina together with executives from Livent, a US mining company that operates a lithium deposit, and have committed investments of more than USD 1 billion to expand its production.” 

Despite its success across the region, Starlink has had its fair share of challenges, with its rates resembling the price of an exuberant rocket launch due to the lack of competition. To address this issue and enhance its competitiveness, Starlink listened to Brazil’s, Chile’s and Mexico’s cries for affordable connectivity and announced a significant 50% price reduction in the monthly service fee in August 2022. In addition to targeting consumers, Starlink recognises the importance of investing in public-private partnerships, for example, their collaboration with the Chilean Ministry of Telecommunications and Transport to bring the power of Starlink’s broadband to schools in far-flung regions like Coquimbo and Los Lagos.  

Starlink is not the only satellite telecommunications company operating in the region. A director of a telecommunications company tells us that in Colombia, there are companies like HughesNet that have managed to connect areas where fibre optics do not reach, offering services mainly oriented to residential customers but also supplying the needs of the public and private sector.  

“There are also other players such as Axess that focus on the business sector, SkyNet that participated in the Digital Centres project to bring connectivity to rural areas of Colombia as well as Claro, Tigo and Movistar which offer a variety of services such as mobile telephones and television. Additionally, China is already developing its satellite network to provide internet services at lower prices. They are hoping to go to market as soon as possible to counterbalance competitors such as Starlink.” And yet, as the telecommunication director reminds us, “Starlink stands out at a regional level for its high speed, leaving others in the market far behind.”  

“Starlink stands out at a regional level for its high speed, leaving others in the market far behind.”  

A telecommunication director, Colombia

National governments in the region are practically lining up to join forces with this tech-wizard, helping pave the way for Starlink’s market domination and its mission to provide widespread internet access. For example, our sources highlight Colombia, “The main competition of Starlink would be the state-owned company Arsat, which is the one that reaches, or should reach, the most remote areas. Arsat clarified that it will not compete with 4G or future 5G connections. Moreover, Starlink may even partner with them to operate in the country.” 

In general, governments across the region have seen the arrival of Starlink as an opportunity to integrate new actors into the market to generate greater competitiveness and new investments. In Panama, for example, the government is already considering a proposal to bring internet to schools in rural areas, using Starlink technology. In Chile, the commitment to reduce the digital divide has been made through the implementation of projects to bring satellite internet to schools and rural populations.  

With its expansion into multiple countries in the region and efforts to reduce pricing and establish partnerships, Starlink is making significant strides towards its goal of internet enlightenment for everyone.  

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