Zimbabweans are eager to have Starlink internet, and for good reason. The excitement has only grown as we have seen neighbouring countries, such as Zambia, start using the service.
Apparently, some politicians do not seem to understand why we can’t wait for the service to arrive. For their sake, let us remind each other why Starlink is a big deal.
First, we need to keep the following stats in mind:
- The internet penetration rate is approximately 65.2%, but the accuracy of this number is uncertain due to people sharing devices and being counted multiple times (multiple device owners).
- The mobile penetration rate in the country is 91.9%. However, a significant number of phones in use are feature phones which do not support internet access. As a result, only 58.8% of households have access to smartphones.
- Many people’s internet use does not extend beyond WhatsApp and a few other social media sites.
Increased internet access
Starlink will provide Zimbabweans with access to high-speed internet, which is currently unavailable in many parts of the country. Just over 98% of the internet connections in the country are on mobile, which has become unreliable over the years, not to mention expensive.
While Econet and NetOne’s coverage maps could be considered impressive, there are still many places without adequate coverage today. We all experience this when we go to rural areas and are forced to hike to high places to check our emails.
Starlink covers 100% of the country. There is not a single isolated hut in the middle of nowhere that Starlink does not cover.
We shan’t get into the benefits that internet access brings but in short, this will open up new opportunities for Zimbabweans regarding education, employment, and entertainment.
Starlink will offer a cheaper alternative compared to current internet service providers (ISPs) in Zimbabwe. This will make it more accessible to Zimbabweans of all income levels.
However, it should be noted that while Starlink may be considered affordable in contrast to the rates charged by traditional ISPs, it may still be out of reach for a significant portion of the population because of the low incomes that Zimbabweans earn.
Using Starlink internet requires a one-time purchase of the kit and an ongoing monthly subscription fee. In Zambia, the kit costs about $500 and the subscription is about $24. We hope it will cost about the same in Zimbabwe.
The $500 price tag for the Starlink kit means that most people who currently do not have internet access will not be able to afford it. We can discuss the possibility of banks or microfinance institutions providing financial assistance for purchases, but this would still be a significant financial burden for many people.
I believe that the people who are most excited about and able to afford Starlink kits are those who already have decent internet coverage. People who are currently paying around $160 (ZW$1m) per month for Liquid Home’s cheapest uncapped package or $245 for Telone’s will appreciate Starlink the most.
If you are currently a TelOne customer, you can save up for the Starlink kit by not paying your bill for two months. Once you have purchased the Starlink kit, you will only need to pay $24 per month for the subscription, which is a significant savings compared to the $245 per month you are currently paying.
In just the first four months of using Starlink, here’s how it would look compared to sticking with Liquid and TelOne, for example:
- Telone – $245*4 = $735
- Liquid – $160*4 = $640
- Starlink – $505+(24*4) = $601
Switching to Starlink will save you more money the longer you use it. It’s a no-brainer.
People in areas without fibre or ADSL internet must rely on mobile broadband. Mobile operators offer data plans for these people, such as Econet’s Private WiFi bundles.
The cost of getting a SIM card is negligible but you will pay $26.50 to get 20GB from Econet. That’s quite the difference from the $24 for unlimited data that Starlink offers.
Hospitals, schools etc
We were looking at individuals trying to get Starlink kits. Indeed, many in remote areas won’t be able to afford it.
However, in those areas where it doesn’t make business sense for our internet service providers to lay fibre optic cables or install and maintain base stations, the government itself could utilise Starlink to cater to those citizens.
Other organisations, including the maligned NGOs, may also help provide internet access to hospitals, schools, community centres and more using Starlink.
So, while individuals may not be able to afford it, they will benefit greatly from Starlink.
We have seen how AMN using Starlink to expand mobile networks in underserved parts of Africa. That is something Zimbabwe sorely needs.
We expect Starlink to be more reliable than traditional ISPs in Zimbabwe. This is important for businesses and individuals who rely on the internet for their work or studies.
It is wild that we would consider satellite internet to be more reliable than a fibre connection. However, 2023 has not been kind to Liquid Home who seem to have fibre breaks every other month. We don’t need to stab at your TelOne ADSL unreliability wounds.
Check out the performance consistency tests that were run by PCMag earlier this year:
The bulk of recorded download-speed tests fell between the 50Mbps and 200Mbps whilst uploads were between 10 and 20Mbps. On latency, most tests fell between 20 and 50 milliseconds.
Try getting that with your Econet or NetOne line. You won’t get those speeds and you won’t get the reliability. Unfortunately, the same pretty much applies to our fixed internet options.
Not everyone will be able to afford Starlink but its entrance into the market will benefit everyone. We need some competition from a foreign player in the internet provision game in this country.
For too long we have listened to the ‘Oh, but it’s tough to operate in Zimbabwe’ cries. That’s undeniably true but why should we bear that?
If we considered internet access as the infrastructure that it is, we would not dilly-dally in licensing Starlink. We would waive licence fees and get it here as soon as possible. We would not try to politicise things as the former ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira is trying to do. That discussion deserves its own article.