Kenya’s telecommunications giant, Safaricom, is gearing up to venture into the satellite Internet arena to compete with SpaceX's Starlink, which has plans to launch its services in the country. In collaboration with AST SpaceMobile, a direct rival to Starlink, Safaricom aims to enhance its broadband services, including Wi-Fi, cellular networks and fiber optic cables, by leveraging AST SpaceMobile's satellite Internet technology.

AST SpaceMobile is focused on building a space-based network that will provide satellite Internet access to remote and underserved areas. Their unique approach allows direct communication with commonly used 4G smartphones, bringing cost-effective broadband connectivity to rural regions. This makes AST SpaceMobile the first company to enable smartphones to connect to a space-based broadband network.

The prototype satellite of AST SpaceMobile, Bluewalker 3, has undergone initial testing in 2022 and is set for an official trial in Kenya later in the year. The trial will involve Safaricom and other African operators in the Vodacom group, using 200 satellites across 49 African, European and Caribbean countries. Vodacom and Vodafone have ownership stakes in Safaricom.

Following the trial, AST SpaceMobile plans to expand its satellite deployments in collaboration with Vodacom, aiming to provide continuous communications to 4G devices across Africa and beyond.

Meanwhile, SpaceX's Starlink has already launched its satellite-based services in several African countries, including Nigeria, Rwanda and Mozambique. In Kenya, SpaceX announced its satellite services' availability starting in the second quarter of 2023, but as of now, the launch has not occurred.

Starlink seeks a license in Kenya with an uncertain launch date and pricing. Partnering with AST SpaceMobile, Safaricom aims to dominate, but pricing concerns remain for budget-conscious users.

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