Zimbabwe has received Starlink’s application for an operator’s license – Jenfan Muswere

Edwin Chabuka Avatar

Well, some bit of good news on Starlink. According to Zimlive, former Minister of ICT said in a meeting on Monday this week that Zimbabwe has received Starlink’s license application and it is under review.

What I remember is that they submitted their application for licencing and POTRAZ was still going through that application… Of course we want to see it approved

Jenfan Muswere

He mentioned that the objective is to improve connectivity in Zimbabwe, especially in the more remote parts of the country, which cannot be done through fiber connections alone. In as much as the emphasis is on the remote parts of Zim, fixed operators are overwhelmed with demand for fixed internet services in urban areas. These will more likely be the biggest clients for Starlink.

We are not out of the woods just yet

It is being said that Starlink has applied to operate in the country. However, the application still has to be assessed by the regulator, and only after satisfying the regulator will they end up setting up shop. In South Africa, it was at this stage that things fell apart as Starlink could not meet the terms as per ICASA regulations. Fingers crossed that will not be the case locally.

The estimated date that Starlink expects to have started operations in Zimbabwe is still Q4 of 2023 however after placing a preorder for the kit, Starlink seems to be sending a revised date of Q2 2024. The assumption is the later date is a more current one as it is being backed up by some of our sources with access to Starlink.

A good number of Zimbos are not waiting

According to our contacts, demand for Starlink kits has been very high in Zimbabwe to the extent that they have a backlog in supply. Techzim has had inquiries from individuals looking to purchase multiple kits mostly for resale.

One instance that created the biggest buzz was ZBC with a Starlink terminal mounted on top of their broadcasting van. It left a number of Zimbabweans asking how they are using this service when it is not yet operating officially in the country.

Image Credit: @iakumandura

This year saw Mozambique being Zimbabwe’s first neighbor to have the service up and running within their borders making it a much closer location for Zimbabweans to get these kits. Zimbabweans residing close to the Mozambique border are also discovering that they can register the kits in Mozambique and use them in Zimbabwe without signing up for the roaming plan and the inconveniences that come with it (60-day roaming access)

Zambia was the most recent Zimbabwean neighbor to approve Starlink’s application. The service is not yet officially live according to Starlink’s coverage map meaning you cannot order a kit just yet, however service is expected to be live in Q3 2023 which is the latest end of this month. Again another avenue Zimbabweans desperate to use Starlink will be bringing in their kits from.

POTRAZ noticed this and issued a statement

From the statement issued by POTRAZ, using Starlink in Zimbabwe right now is allowed but you will need to be compliant first. The statement targeted 3 types of entities:

  1. A satellite-based service provider (Starlink included)
    Such an operator can provide services in Zimbabwe if they obtain an operator license from the regulator. It can be an independent license or a Virtual Network Operator agreement with an already existing and licensed Public Network Operator.
  2. Resellers and installers
    These are enterprising individuals and businesses just looking to sell the kits. They also need to have a license from POTRAZ to sell these kits.
  3. End-Users
    End-users who wish to use Starlink services for personal use are required to obtain a Private Network license which will allow them to be able to make use of Starlink services.

This is difficult to police as the only way to verify every kit is literally a door-to-door inspection of every house. And considering how portable and simple the kit is to dismantle and set up, it will be a cat-and-mouse game.

This will be the current state of affairs for the short term. If Starlink is to be licensed to operate then the hurdles currently present will cease to exist.

State of Starlink in Africa

At the moment Starlink is present in 4 African countries including Mozambique, Nigeria, Kenya, and Rwanda with Zambia very close to being the 5th. The average pricing for the kit and the subscriptions in Africa is less than for global markets.

CountryEquipment costStandard subscription P/M

Such pricing is what we can expect in Zimbabwe as well when the service arrives. According to Starlink, they have stopped making losses from the kits as they are finding breakthroughs into a cheaper process of manufacturing them. As the technology matures, the cost of obtaining he kits can drop further making it more accessible.

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  1. Gram Mutandi

    Sounds like this will be a game-changer if licensed. Hopefully narrow political interests (of throttling wider public access to information) will not override the overwhelming socioeconomic benefits that could accrue from having this technology available widely in Zimbabwe.

    1. Anonymous

      Econet et al are at Potraz office this morning with wards of cash to make sure that will never happen. The day Starlink comes, many ISPs will close shop.

      1. Anonymous

        I don’t really think that ISPs will close shop entirely. Consider the start-up equipment costs, they’re out of reach of most of the Zimbabwean populace. Consider Utande, who have quite a good deal of unlimited monthly data at 3Mb/s , going for $60, whilst start up equipment costs are as high as about $300. That in itself can hinder a lot of people to get access. That’s as high as most of our monthly salaries for some of us.

  2. Felonious Felines

    Let MuskX in!!! Forget for a second the direct benefits of being a subscriber; the fact that the biggest ISPs will be forced to compete, even if it’s just at the high end, will be stupendous!

    But as optimistic as I am, we all know that there is a long line of fat and skinny cats licking their butts and lips in anticipation at getting a whiff of Elon’s billions. We may end up paying an effective full price subs or more to cover their cut if they let SpaceX in 😸

  3. greasy little palm boys

    maybe the minister is calculating what they need here to line their pockets first, then to line some pockets at potraz too ! and finally why is this “news” from Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Jenfan Muswere ? why not from Tatenda Mavetera as the new Minister of Information and Communications Technology? just asking , there are some here waiting to get their dirty little palms greased !!!!!!

  4. Captain Jack Sparrow

    Starlink is not for poor folks , the equipment cost alone puts 90% of Zimbos off the service so what benefit is it to the ordinary Zimbo. We need operators like Rain that charge R250 for an unlimited reliable data connection. Equipment cost is at zero cost ….

    1. Blessing

      Starlink is a competitive option for those who don’t have access to fiber internet. It offers much higher speeds than Liquid or Utande Wimax, which have almost similar installation costs. For example, Utande charges 169USD for up to 15Mbps or more than 200USD for up to 20Mbps. Starlink, on the other hand, provides more than 150Mbps for only around 50 USD per month.

      1. Christopher

        Seriously do people in Zimbabwe actually think that the Starlink application will be approved? Approval as with all approvals in Zim will mean greasing the hands of many officials or Government creaming a large amount off the top (with ridiculous operator license fees). Look how much econet has to pay because they are desperate to keep operating in Zim. No foreign operator will pay such ridiculous fees because they can operator a lot cheaper in other countries.

    2. Samaita

      You can’t build any business with poor people in mind. Business isn’t charity my friend 🤣🤣🤣

      1. Kunaka

        Kkkkkk. I like this saying…. business is not charity!

  5. Samaita

    ZBC can use Starlink services before it’s even licensed, nothing surprising there. #Vene 🤣🤣🤣

  6. Anonymous

    Mthuli ordered Facebook to pay 15% tax on Cash received from Zim advertisers. Facebook “complied”. They now simply charge the 15% on an advertiser’s budget thus pushing the burden back to the Zimbabwean advertiser! Facebook 2, Vene 0.

    Forgive me kana ndarotomoka apa 🤣🤣🤣

    1. Eng. Chris Murove

      Hauna kurotomoka. It was just a smart way for Mthuli to collect the tax. He gets it from one source, i.e. Facebook and forces those who are advertising and paying the tax to file in accurate VAT returns..

  7. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    I can bet if it’s approved, there’ll be a fee or licencing attached that’ll make it more expensive than anything on the current market.


  8. Guzu

    Its very naive for anyone to think Zimbabwe will be amongst the first countries to approve starlink. The best bet for starlink is working with a local partner. Otherwise forget

  9. Mbizildini

    What’s that “60-day roaming access” you mentioned?

    1. Free Spirit

      Starlink offers/offered a portability add-on on top of your normal subscription. With it, you could, for a maximum of 60 days, use it anywhere on the continent your account is registered ie, a Mozambique registered unit would work anywhere in Africa but not in Asia. If you exceed 60 days, they will ask you to update your account address to your current location.

  10. L. Makombe

    Competition is all good if the playing field is level. What actual investment will Starlink bring into Zimbabwe, as the service does not require experienced installers like DSTV. Starlink will directly compete with all the licenced operators, and based on their monthly charges, no operator will be able to match Starlinks download caps and speeds. This could sound doom to all operators in Zimbabwe and there is a possibility that some of them may scale down operations and lay off employees. Starlink’s model of direct competition with operators in Zimbabwe is skewed in that it has limitless resources at its disposal. Licenced operators in Zimbabwe cannot access funding from institutions in the west because of sanctions that have been imposed on Zimbabwe. I hope the government and POTRAZ are aware of these skewed positions that favour Starlink. I wonder how many people will be employed by Starlink in its operations in Zimbabwe as compared to those employed within the ICT industry in Zimbabwe. Already ZBC has dumped some of its local service providers it used to provide outside broadcasts in favour of Starlink. Zimbabwe is open for business at the expense of its own citizens. I stand guided and corrected, but Starlink is bad news for Zimbabwe ICT industry. What has ICASA done in South Africa. Minister Muswere should not be excited that Starlink is coming on board, he should be guided by the industry players to safeguard the interests of Zimbabwe and not advance the interests of Starlink whose country the United States of America has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe and continues to be hostile to Zimbabwe. Will Starlink be a taxpayer in Zimbabwe?

    1. Let Them Fight

      So let people (who can afford it) suffer with no or sub-par service because other individuals are under sanctions? Because certain companies refuse to charge realistically? Because companies refuse to invest in improving their services or building efficiencies? If the industry players can’t play, get them off the field and let others in who can! Protectionism, croniysm, profiteering. This type of backwards thinking is why we are held back decade after decade!

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