August 2023
6 minutes

Starlink: providing internet for mobile dead zones

Claire Shaw – Portfolio Director

Key Points

  • Over a third of the global population – three billion people – do not have internet access
  • The proportion rises to more than half for countries with large rural populations where the infrastructure costs are untenable
  • Starlink, a SpaceX company, uses a constellation of low-orbit satellites to provide the world with high-speed internet access

As with any investment, your capital is at risk.

Did you know that despite all of the latest technological advancements, a whopping three billion people still have no access to the internet?

In this infographic we take a look at countries with some of the lowest internet adoption rates around the globe and explore how Starlink—the satellite internet constellation owned by SpaceX—is well-positioned to fill the gaps in the market.

Only part of the world is online

Source: DataReportal, United Nations

Currently, only 63.1 per cent of the world’s population has access to the internet, dropping to 45.8 per cent in rural communities.

A creative solution is needed to meet the UN’s 2030 target of getting every person safe and affordable internet access.

By identifying the countries with the lowest internet adoption rates, we can help solve this problem faster.

Lowest internet adoption rates by country

Dead zones in rural communities

A nation’s internet adoption rate is partially driven by the number of rural residents.

Here the data from the World Bank shows the 10 countries with the lowest internet adoption rates:

Internet adoption rate

  1. North Korea, East Asia 0.0%
  2. Burundi, Africa 5.8%
  3. South Sudan, Africa 6.5%
  4. Uganda, Africa 10.3%
  5. Central African Republic, Africa 10.6%
  6. Ethiopia, Africa 16.7%
  7. Mozambique, Africa 17.4%
  8. Chad, Africa 17.9%
  9. Madagascar Africa 19.8%
  10. Pakistan, South Asia 21.0%

The World Bank’s latest figures quoted above are for 2021, except for South Sudan, 2020, and North Korea, 2013. In the case of North Korea, other reports indicate that access remains limited to a very small number of people.


Most countries at the lower end of the adoption rate scale have large rural populations. For example, 60 per cent of Pakistan’s population lives in rural communities.

A viable solution is necessary to address this issue and achieve the UN’s objective of providing safe and affordable internet access to all by 2030.

Enter Starlink

Unlike conventional internet providers, which rely on hundreds of miles of cabling, Starlink uses a constellation of low-orbit satellites to provide the world with high-speed internet access.

Starlink’s service now covers many of the countries with the lowest internet adoption rates. SpaceX says the service will become available in Zambia, Chad and Burundi later in 2023. SpaceX also plans to launch in Burkina Faso and Uganda in 2024.

Turning to high adoption rate countries: Starlink has yet to cover the US fully but plans to do so before the end of 2023. And it recently received a licence to operate in South Korea. In total, the service is now available in more than 50 countries.

Providing the world with internet

Starlink’s ambition to “end mobile dead zones” has driven much of its work, growing its subscriber base from 10,000 when first launched in 2021 to over a million by the end of 2022.

As one of Scottish Mortgage’s pioneers of digitisation, SpaceX’s subsidiary Starlink, is well-positioned to provide high-speed internet services in nearly every country with a low internet adoption rate.

Want to invest in transformative companies like SpaceX?

Find out more about the companies in the Scottish Mortgage portfolio on our holdings page.


This infographic was produced in collaboration with Visual Capitalist.

About the author - Claire Shaw

Portfolio Director

Claire Shaw is a portfolio director and plays a prominent role in servicing Scottish Mortgage’s UK shareholder base. Before joining in 2019, she spent over a decade as a fund manager with a focus on managing European equity portfolios for a global client base. With a background in analysing companies and communicating investment ideas, Claire is also responsible for creating engaging content that makes the Scottish Mortgage portfolio accessible to all its shareholders. Beyond that, she works closely with the managers, meeting with portfolio companies and conducting in-depth portfolio discussions with shareholders.

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