Zimbabwe has approved Starlink’s internet service license- President Mnangagwa

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Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful

Zimbabwe’s telecom regulator has approved the license that will allow the internet service company and satellite unit of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Starlink to operate in the southern African country. President Emmerson Mnangagwa made this known on Saturday.

The president also said Starlink will provide services through its sole and exclusive local partner, IMC Communications. The decision “is expected to result in the deployment of high speed, low cost, LEO (low-Earth-orbit) internet infrastructure throughout Zimbabwe and particularly in all the rural areas,” Mnangagwa said in a statement.

The Starlink approval comes amid a government crackdown on unregistered users smuggling Starlink kits from neighbouring countries like Zambia.

Recall that we reported that the government of Zimbabwe ordered the company to shut down its services in the country. The order was issued by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) in an email.

“You are currently using Starlink in an unauthorised territory, As a result. Starlink has been directed by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) to disable your service. As described In your Terms of Service, Starlink does not guarantee when or where its Mobile or Mobile Priority Services Plans will be available. Use of such services Is dependent on many factors, including obtaining or maintaining the necessary regulatory approvals which are subject to change,” the mail reads in part.

Zimbabwe has approved Starlink's internet service license- President Mnangagwa
FILE PHOTO: Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks during his inauguration in Harare, Zimbabwe in September 2023. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

Starlink has experienced difficulty as it looks to deepen its foothold across Africa.

In South Africa where the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa(ICASA), the country’s telecoms regulator, has ordered IT Lec, the sole importer of Starlink kits, to cease the importation. Although SpaceX, makers of Starlink, are yet to secure an operational license, IT LEC found a workaround for its customers. But now, the ISP has been warned to abandon this workaround in a strongly worded notice by the ICASA.

In Botswana, the importation, use and sale of its kits and services was officially prohibited by the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA). On February 2, 2024, BOCRA rejected Starlink’s application to operate in Botswana, citing the company’s failure to meet all requirements. In an email statement, BOCRA emphasized that Starlink has not authorized any entity to import or resell its Internet kits in Botswana. Offenders will be committing an offence, although the specific charges remain undisclosed.

The prohibition also came with a warning of legal repercussions for those who defied the ban.

Read more: Botswana bans Starlink, imposes consequences for violators

The company also faced regulatory squabbles in Ghana although Ghanaian authorities have assured the public that it would grant the internet company a licence once it fulfills all regulatory requirements.

Starlink

However, its present failings in Africa is balanced by its astounding success in Southeast Asia, with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Starlink boasts a constellation of nearly 6,000 satellites, with over 5,200 operational and beaming internet access to 2.7 million subscribers.

Starlink’s internet service is now available in 99 countries. This was revealed by Elon Musk, the Founder of Starlink’s parent body, SpaceX in a cryptic message on his X account following a successful launch in the Republic of Fiji which comprises over 300 islands.

“Starlink is now live across the 300+ islands in the Republic of Fiji, marking the 99th country, territory or market around the world where Starlink’s high-speed internet service is available,” the company said.

The development comes a day after Elon Musk visited Indonesia for the official launch of the internet service in one of the largest economies of Asia. With the launch, Mr Musk says he hopes to reach people living in the more remote areas of the country with quality internet service.


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