Zim regulator warns against using Starlink without their permission, Zimbos unlikely to heed it

Leonard Sengere Avatar

To say Zimbabweans are interested in Starlink is quite an understatement. Mention Starlink in any context and heads pop up, “Hanzi chii? Is it coming? Where can I get one?”

The biggest question has always been, “What do the regulators think about it?” For its part, the Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe has been silent on the matter even as more and more people imported Starlink kits into the country.

POTRAZ has broken its vow of silence and let us know just what they think about Starlink. They bared their soul in a public notice:


The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) regulates the provision of postal and telecommunicaions services in Zimbabwe. The manadate of POTRAZ includes licensing of postal and telecommunications service providers and enforcement of compliance with licence conditions and applicable laws for the sector. The licences are issued in terms of the Postal and Telecommunications Act [Chapter 12:05] (The Act), as read with the Postal and Telecommunications (Licensing, Registration and Certificaion) Regulations, 2021.

Under the current licensing framework, the provision of internet by means of satellite systems can be done by Public Network Operators or by foreign-based satellite service providers/operators. A foreign-based Satellite Service Provider/Operator can offer services in Zimbabwe using any of the following options: –

Through duly licensed Public Network Operators. Under this arrangement the Satellite Operator and the local network Operator enter a Virtual Network Operator (VNO) agreement, that must be approved by the authority, to ensure that the public network operator meets legal and regulatory requirements stipulated in the licence.

A Satellite Service Provider/Operator can apply for their own licence that would authorise them to provide services.

End users can apply for private network licences which would authorise the utilisation of externally operated Satellite systems.

The Act prohibits the provision of telecommunications services or operation of telecommunications systems, including the possession or control of radio transmission equipment without a licence, certificate or authorisation expressly given by POTRAZ.

It has come to the attention of the Authority that there are entities masquerading as licensed Satellite Service Providers or local agents accredited to distribute customer premises equipment for the provision of satellite-based internet services to unsuspecting members of the public.

The public is reminded that only service providers who are licensed or authorised by POTRAZ are permitted at law to provide telecommunications services or distribute/install customer premises equipment for purposes of providing telecommunications services inluding satellite-based broadband internet service to customers or end-users.

The public is further reminded that local licensed Operators are only allowed to distribute satellite-based internet services if their VNO agreemenst have been approved by the Authority.

Being found in possession of or operating a telecommunications equipment/ system without a valid licence, certificate or authorisation from POTRAZ is a statutory offence punishable at law.

The takeaway

Starlink can be used in Zimbabwe legally even before it is licensed by POTRAZ.

Starlink can either apply for a license from POTRAZ or partner with a local company that is registered as a public network operator. In most countries where Starlink is available, they have applied for their own license. It is therefore likely that they will do the same in Zimbabwe.

We remain in the dark about why it is taking so long for Starlink to be licensed in Zimbabwe. POTRAZ previously stated that they had not received any application from Starlink, but Starlink has said that they intend to launch in Zimbabwe in Q4 2023. If this timeline is accurate, we should have heard something from POTRAZ by now.

While we wait for Starlink to enter the Zimbabwean market through POTRAZ or a local public network operator, we, the end-users, can apply to POTRAZ for permission to use Starlink.

However, the fact that ZBC appears to have been granted permission to use Starlink does not necessarily mean that you will be granted permission.

Licensing is reasonable

I understand the need to regulate internet services in the country. However, there are some serious gaps in the market that Starlink can fill such that it should be given special treatment, in my opinion. POTRAZ should play blind and let us use it in the shadows until such time as it is officially licensed.

There are remote/isolated places that will not be covered by terrestrial internet providers because it doesn’t make any business sense to build a base station for two families in some little forest in rural Matebeleland, for example.

Indeed many of those who are using Starlink in Zimbabwe are using it in otherwise uncovered places if the questions we get and social media are to be believed.

So, until and unless we have affordable and fast internet access across the country we should be bending over backwards to attract the likes of Starlink.

I am aware that it is unfair to companies like Econet that have to pay US$137.5 million to be able to operate but internet access is a human right according to the UN. So what’s $137.5 million when people’s rights are being trampled on?

A losing battle

POTRAZ made it clear that it is illegal to use Starlink without express permission from them. The only problem for them is that few people care about that. People believe it is an old and out-of-touch law and won’t even think twice about breaking it.

I understand where people are coming from. It’s like living in a village in a rural area that is 15km away from a grocery shop. Then someone opens one just 2km from you and the village chief shuts it down saying the owner did not pay homage to him first.

Every single villager will scream, “To heck with your homage, we are not about to walk 15km to buy cooking oil because your ego is bruised.”

Potraz is not unlike the chief in this analogy. We all feel like, “To heck with your licensing, we are not about to miss out on $50 for fast unlimited internet on every inch of Zimbabwe because you want Starlink to pay homage to you and pony up some yams.”

We really should not take this stance but I’m afraid it is what we have been pushed to. Potraz and ZRP will find it hard to enforce this law. Remember that many people are using these Starlink kits in remote and isolated places where there is no substitute. Who is going to locate these kits?

We shall try to apply for permission to use Starlink in Zimbabwe to see how the legal process goes.

Also read:

AMN using Starlink to expand mobile networks in underserved parts of Africa

Who faces the biggest threat from Starlink? Itโ€™s not the MNOs

Tangwena, an ICT business looking to bring Starlink into Zimbabwe hassle-free


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  1. Mbizildini

    Starlink is the biggest disruption in modern times and for good reason. I’ve been using it for a month now in an area not serviced by any of the local operators and I must say the experience has been amazing. It’s cheaper, it’s affordable and best of all it’s faster than most of our local ISPs.

    We tried to get one of our local operators to come and assist us and they said they would but to date we haven’t heard from them. So as far as I’m concerned they can hang. POTRAZ (which is basically government) should just let it go because I for one do not intend to stop using it. In the words of William Wallace; ” They can steal our election, switch off our electricity, but they will never take our Starlink!” ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

    Also, you skipped a word in the second last paragraph.

    1. Anonymous


    2. Smokie

      ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚gadzirisa word rawasirira lenny

      1. Leonard Sengere

        Ndaisa word racho amana ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ

    3. Anonymous

      ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚ Freedom!!!!!!!!!!!!?!!????

    4. Flysiddthesoulutionexe

      ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐ŸคฃWord chete here mkoma

  2. Enock Mnangagwa

    Ndikawana mari yekutenga starlink ndirikutoitenga, mitemo yemuzimbabwe ichatyisa here mazuvano, anditi kungopa munhu wacho akubata iyeye mari zvapera

    1. Mbizildini

      Chero ukabhadhara munhu anenge akubata, still zvinenge zvakachipa kupfura maISP emuno ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

      1. Leonard Sengere

        Unfortunately, thatโ€™s how it is. Thatโ€™s how most people will look at it.

  3. Sir law

    Haaaa tongoita zviripo hanti we’re all corrupted muno muzim

  4. TuffStrider

    Unfortunately with Starlink POTRAZ has met it’s match.In the future it will be impossible to regulate internet as more and more companies are following Starlink Eg Jeff Bezos’ space company and ESA who have joined the club.This competition will significantly bring down the price of satellite internet making it affordable for the public.

    1. Mbizildini

      Very true. If local ISPs are smart they should figure out a way to work with Starlink to better improve their services.

  5. WeZaka

    POTRAZ stance is not about Starlink, but about Freeman Chari’s kits used during the recent election for feed information into his Mandhla App. This is pure politics at play.

  6. Anonymous

    Warning was about that guy who was collating election results using ultra low frequency transmitters stationed all over zim? Not really for Starlink.

  7. ANON

    Not legal yet because bribe has not been paid yet, TIA

  8. Reaper

    This is one battle they can’t win. Same as that one where people were asked to disconnect their openview decoders.
    They need to embrace starlink with open arms and get the money at the same time. Win/win.

  9. The Empress

    Elon for a start would never accept paying anything close to $100 million for a licence nd Potraz is definitely not willing/able to charge less than that.
    The people at POTRAZ know that Zimbabwean people (those who can afford it) are going to ignore the part about starlink being illegal nd use it anyways
    So for POTRAZ the only answer is to issue this formal statement that absolves them from having to deal with any complaints that may come from people for things like being scammed by unlicensed installers, poor service from starlink etc, etc.

    Basically this Public Notice is POTRAZ (govt’s) way of telling people that just like any problem concerning (illegal) South African dstv accounts, (illegal) Openview decoders. YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN! So don’t come crying to us if anything goes wrong!

    The only thing that is going to keep this whole mess low key is that those receivers are still very expensive otherwise we will have the nonsensical situation right now where almost every single house in all cities/towns in the country has a satellite dish on the roof but only 1000 people paid for a TV licence.

    Imagine what would happen if Elon dropped the price of the receiver to $50 ๐Ÿ™†๐Ÿฟโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฃ

  10. Musket Rider And The Star Sheriffs

    Trust government to get in the way even when all they have to literally do is get out of the way.

    1. Glory days

      Baba you are old… When was that show last on ZBC?

      1. Musket Rider And The Star Sheriffs

        Lol, no idea! Knowing ZBC it might still be in rotation! And yes, I’m old enough that if i get out of bed too fast before my joints warm up, my day will be ruined!

        ๐Ÿ˜‚ For those too old to remember and too young to know!

        1. Anonymous

          You making miss LOOK N LISTEN๐Ÿ˜ญ… There is someone in gvt that also reminds me of Worzel Gummage ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ

          1. Ms Sally

            ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚Lol!!! Who is the scarecrow lookalike?!

  11. The Ndebele

    โ€œTwo rural families in Matabelelandโ€

    Tribalism – microagression and unconscious bias perhaps

    1. Too Woke?

      Oh god! Use this language sparingly! It summons western SJWs and their values and before you know it, your children will be They/Thems!

      On tribalism, I’m not sure what you are getting at. Mat North and South respectively have Zimbabwe’s lowest population density per square kilometre. If that doesn’t make it the ideal example to illustrate the point, what does?

  12. Bhinikwa

    I spoke to one Portraz official who spoke offhand said the real issue was August 2023 elections and the implications of having a provider operating without legal boundaries. But offcourse we know govt is waiting for a pay day. Even if star link comes in and as usual will charge extremely heavy fees to compensate massive portraz licence, it won’t stop us obtaining the kits from outside the country the same way SA Dstv accounts run here or openview operates here. The days of govt conteolling every facet of life is coming to an end. Whatsapp broke many govts backs already and Starlink will finish them.

  13. Anonymous

    Starlink is most useful to people located in remote areas, making it harder to police. Unless you can stop the equipment from coming in across the borders, the effort required to enforce these laws may not be worth it.

  14. Steve

    Why should we feel sorry for Econet anyway? They have been protected from competition for years and offer a service that is both much more expensive and sub par relative to regional peers. I mean you can barely send a WhatsApp text in much of harare their data service is so bad. I hope government doesnโ€™t tax starlink to death and instead sees it as an opportunity to stimulate economic growth

  15. Lamar

    I don’t really see the reason for not enjoying the best quality internet speeds because of bureaucracy . Just like boreholes people will not wait for clearances and government regulations.

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