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 approvedJenfan 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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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.