Zim ISPs aren’t losing sleep over Elon Musk’s Starlink & here’s why

Valentine Muhamba Avatar
Starlink satellites 12,000 Pr

The internet service provider market in Zim just got another potential player by way of Elon Musk’s Starlink. The service on paper looks like it’s going to democratise internet services (somewhat) because it relies on a net of low orbit satellites. This means that anyone anywhere in the world with the kit can get a satellite internet connection.

At face value, this looks like it will blow ZOL, TelOne and Utande right out of the water. But there are a few hurdles the service has to overcome to challenge the traditional players.

POTRAZ registration

This isn’t necessarily a hang-up because by its own admission POTRAZ is looking to increase competition in the data sphere. The authority last week spoke of how it wanted to make the mobile data space a lot more competitive in order to drive down costs.

I am sure POTRAZ is looking for the same when it comes to ISPs even though it doesn’t have as much sway when it comes to Internet Service Providers. Starlink coming in would be a welcome addition but that’s if the folks at the ISP approach POTRAZ in order to register.

Yesterday we reported on Starlink approaching the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA). And with preorders open in SA, it seems as though everything went swimmingly. However, for those in Zim looking to use the service (using the following term loosely) legally, Starlink will have to approach the local authority.

We all know what happens when there’s a new service that hits the market in Zimbabwe. It will be reserved for those who can afford or are enthusiasts for some time. This sentiment was echoed (in part) by Ofentse Dazela, the pricing director at Africa Analysis when Starlink preorders opened in South Africa.

“My view is that this new service will only become a niche service in South Africa.”

via IOL

Dazela did however go on to say that this service may help deliver internet to places in Africa that don’t have adequate mobile data coverage. Zimbabwe is one of those places that doesn’t have adequate mobile data coverage or consistent service delivery. However, only those in those underserved areas with the money to buy the kit for US$500 and then the US$99 a month can get it whenever the devices start shipping.

“It’s cheaper than VSAT though…”

This is true VSAT installation fees for ZOL, Telone and Utande are all pretty pricy. Worse still the amount of money you’ll have to pay for data packages. But the accessibility angle is still the problem. You will have to fall within the grey area of just shy of being able to afford VSAT but you can manage Starlink. I don’t see many people falling into this category.

What of those in the cities?

Well… the only disadvantage Starlink has to the traditional players is that it is cheaper to get ZOL, Utande or TelOne fibre, ADSL (for TelOne) and LTE. The initial price point of US$500 for the kit is pretty high where ZOL for example will charge you around US$66 dollars for a modem and free installation for fibre.

The only place where Starlink makes sense is the US$99 a month for what appears to be uncapped internet. You’d be hard-pressed to find even an LTE service in Zim that charges something that reasonable. However the initial price point is I think a significant barrier to entry.

As much as it will be affordable down the road, shelling out US$500 is painful. I can see may people sticking with the local ISPs in this respect even though service is sometimes questionable.


What’s your take?

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  1. Jenorary Tekinoroji

    We will buy it.

  2. Online worker

    If you’re using your internet connection for work like me, then you will definitely be buying this. I know I will. Internet down time and instability costs me minimum US$100 to US$200 in lost revenue monthly. US$500 once-off payment versus minimum US$1000 loss annually, no brainer there.

    1. Dennis Mlambo

      I personally agree with you. $500 will work out cheaper in the long run. The service we get from ISPs outside of the cities is pathetic especially where fibre is unavailable. The VSAT and is expensive and unreliable. The WiMax provided by ZOL is problematic and comes with very poor support. I will definitely get the stalink if given the chance. If far worth it than the internet service we get here especially if your location has no fibre.

    2. Over It

      You are 100% right. The cost to companies due to bad service from local players is huge. If Starlink is stable then people will happily pay the extra to have a decent service. Local ISPs need to be very concerned.

  3. Anony

    For me this sounds like a great product. Looking at the fact that if you want unlimited internet at the rates reported by those who have tested of 50-100mbps, per month makes it the cheapest service for those speeds in the country. That 4k hdr content needs a hella horse power. I would definitely try the service.

    Another thought, a business model can cstart where you buy the satelites and resale them at a hire purchase model 🤔

  4. Anonymous

    Please do a follow up piece once it’s launched in RSA if it works in zim

  5. Ashley Musihiwa

    our own satellite is loading up soon.

  6. Anonymous

    I am glad Starlink is giving local ISP a wake-up call. I believe most business will use it as a reliable backup link if not a primary link. Latencies to the overseas will be much lower than even our fibre. Starlink will not be cut off anytime like our internet did. Amazon is also going to be providing a similar service with upto 400Mbps in the near future. Also Starlink will not have any far usage . I have used vsat and its painfully slow and even more painfully expensive. Zol wibroniks is up and down and the speeds can be really bad. Unless Rain 5G comes into Zim early than Starlink. I am going for Starlink over my fibre connection. I just hope POTRAZ does not get in the way. Personal i think POTRAZ is the greatest hinderance to ICT growth in Zim.

    1. Wraythe

      Just wanna state the comment about latency being lower is technically inaccurate. The distance covered by satellite is higher so technically – it will have an inherently higher latency. Cant beat physics. If you’re thinking you’ll get 50ms to EU, you’re in for a surprise.

      1. Reply to Wraythe

        4 x 4k Youtube streaming and 27 ms.
        Linus Tech Tips video below with more than 2M views


        1. Anonymous

          If you believe you’re going to get 27ms to the rest of the world, you are in for a surprise.

          27ms will be local. Unachievable to EU due to physics

      2. Anonymous

        ZOL Wibroniks was giving me latency of over 450ms when I finally threw in the towel and moved to TelOne fibre. Guess what I’m getting there? 350ms on a good day. I’d get Starlink even for 80ms, heck chero 120ms, Zim ISPs operate their networks semaKombi, Kombi haizarii. They built their networks with low capacity now they can’t keep up with traffic, but they keep stuffing more subscribers in there.

    2. eazy_welcoson

      Starlink is the future and we can’t overlook that, THIS IS A WAKE UP CALL for local ISPs especially ECONET who once used to be at the top of their league compared to nowadays. Am rooting for starlink good for my online gaming experience and cloud computing……. Just to advice local ISPs ( if possible try investing in this Starlink bubble and be part of their journey work on partnership perhaps you might survive the coming storm @2022 is near!!!!)

  7. Anonymous

    We will get it for use at the farm! No local service provider has good internet that services our farm location. A d the farm business will pay for it gladly! This is a welcome move!

  8. Shonhiwa Charles Mungate

    need one

  9. Reply to Wryath
  10. Mata Yako Iwee Muverengi

    Besides, Starlink services just like any other service will get cheaper & cheaper & cheaper & cheaper probably till its basically for free, like how internet services are free in the U.S.A .So ISPs will soon be dead as dinosaur sh*t. Lol

  11. Anonymous

    The article is wrong though, ZOL sent me a US$460 quote to install fiber at my house, and then they charge $149 for the basic uncapped package, which comes up to the same initial cost for Starlink

    I must admit, I’ve already paid the $99 deposit for Starlink, and I’m waiting for 2022 to come when the service launches, and I’m sure that I will not be the only one, it just makes a lot of sense in the longrun, I’m waiting to hear what POTRAZ says, but I’ve already signed up

  12. Adam Gwaze

    Considering its global market reach vs local ISPs limited to domestic market share, Starlink services will inevitably become cheaper owing to massive economies of scale.

  13. Tendai

    We are buying it

  14. phillip

    what about econet s isp?

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