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Internet star war to benefit new users

CONSUMERS ARE set to benefit from an internet price star war. Starlink, the satellite internet firm ultimately owned by Elon Musk, this month slashed the core price in Jamaica for the second time, resulting in a 40 per cent reduction, amid similar promotions by rivals.

These promotions are likely to spur the continued growth of the home internet market, even as more Jamaicans venture outside with the waning pandemic.

The provider slashed its price since starting in late 2022, down from $ 70,000 for the dish hardware to $60,000, and announcing $42,350 this month. That was seen as a deterrent to installation, according to experts, who previously spoke to Wednesday Business .

The company called the latest hardware pricing a “limited-time offer in Jamaica” on its site.

After installation, the monthly cost of the service hovers at $8,450, or still above the monthly costs of key rivals Digicel and Flow. That said, Starlink’s satellite technology would offer a more expansive range than earth-based technology, from the other providers.

The take-up wasn’t immediately known, but the service has found a niche in rural and mountainous areas with choppy or no internet. The broader market, however, remains laced with competition, with rival providers also offering double-digit price discounts.

The Starlink price drop follows on the heels of promotions by telecoms Digicel, which slashed the price of installation for both of its home internet offerings by up to 75 per cent.

“Installation for Digicel fibre service, which is the wired connection to home, was $4,000 and now it’s $2,000. And the wireless connection, TDD LTE technology, moves from $20,000 to $5,000 for installation,” said a source at Digicel who opted for anonymity as they did not receive clearance to speak to the media.

After installation, Digicel customers pay $6,500 a month for internet bundled services.

The other major telecom provider, Flow, started offering bundled packages at $5,000, down from $6,000, to include internet and mobile services. In fact, they even threw in a free Samsung phone. It’s also $7,000 in total, down from $8,000 if persons want to include cable.

Home internet remains the sole service that continues to steadily grow since the onset of the 2020 pandemic. In contrast to mobile and fixed line services which vacillate quarter over quarter, the latest regulatory data to September 2022 shows internet users hovering at 2.23 million, up 2.5 per cent year on year, and up 4.5 per cent in the prior three months.

Of that figure, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) indicated that home internet users account for 420,000, up from 400,000 a year earlier; and mobile internet users account for 1.81 million, up from 1.78 million a year earlier.

In other words, mobile internet users are larger in number, but home internet is growing at a faster pace.

These services combined generated $11.9 billion in the September quarter or 9.0 per cent higher year on year. It’s nearly on par with the amount generated from pure mobile services at $12.8 billion. Eventually, internet revenue will surpass mobile, as subscribers to mobile are vacillating up 2.5 per cent year on year, but down 1.7 per cent when compared with the prior three months.

Starlink is operated by SpaceX, a company owned by Musk.

Jamaica joined over 32 countries in which Starlink has registered a presence.

The service offers internet from a constellation of about 2,000 satellites in near space. It builds on earlier satellite dish technology, but Starlink’s satellites are several miles closer to Earth’s orbit, which dramatically reduces latency, or interruptions.

Starlink Services Jamaica was incorporated last year with Lauren Dreyer of the United States as its director. Dreyer is senior director for Starlink business operations at SpaceX. The company’s shareholder is listed as Starlink Holdings Netherlands, according to Companies Office of Jamaica records.

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