This brings us to my teapot-shaped country Zimbabwe. What does this mean for the Starlink kits in this country? After all, POTRAZ has not given Starlink an operator license yet and they recently launched a manhunt to arrest anyone importing the kits or using the service.
Will Kits in Zim be switched off too?
First, let’s cook on the SA story. There are several suppliers importing kits into South Africa. Outside of StarSat, there are companies like ICASAsePUSH doing the most hilarious job of avoiding the Starlink copyright strike. Let’s just call it Sparkling because that’s less obvious. Right? RIGHT?
It is necessary because they do not have a license from Starlink to be a reseller of their service or to offer management services to their customers. Starlink prefers customers paying subscriptions directly to them rather than through a 3rd party reseller. Their terms of service only allow for a 3rd party reseller to import the kit on a customer’s behalf and offer support for the customer. StarSat was accepting subscriptions from customers on a managed service basis. An issue on 2 fronts.
- Starlink is not officially live in SA meaning there is no pricing for the service. So whatever subscription StarSat is charging its customers might be lower than what Starlink would charge for the region meaning revenue loss for the business, or more than the projected pricing which could damage the brand in that region.
- It makes it look like Starlink is defying the regulator allowing such a big entity to push the service regardless of it not being licenced. This could throw spanners in the works for Starlink’s negotiations to get an operator license.
Bringing it to Zim, our land is the grey market Wild West. These kits are coming in in their hundreds but there isn’t really a StarSat nor is there a sneaky ICASAsePUSH with a whole website selling Starlink products. It’s hundreds of individuals bringing them in on a referral ‘if you know you know‘ basis. The kits are also coming from anywhere so tracking the source of origin is pretty much an Alice in Wonderland affair, which could work to Zim’s advantage and any other country where the service is facing some regulatory speed humps.
Starlink cannot just pull the plug on all the kits in countries where their service is not yet approved. That’s because part of their service offering is the roaming service. For you to use Starlink you need to set it up in a country where the service is approved and is live. Then after setting it up, you jump into your account settings and choose the roaming service. This is what will allow you to move with your kit anywhere, even to a country where the service is not approved, and still use it.
So if Starlink were to loadshed every kit in Zim and SA, all the individuals and businesses who are using the roaming feature legitimately will be catching strays. Highly unlikely that they will do that one. The StarSat element happened because it’s a big company that most likely was sourcing the kits from the same supplier and managing the accounts of their customers. Too big for Starlink not to do something about.
And the roaming?
Officially, Starlink’s roaming service allows for a 60-day access period. When the 60 days are up, access is disabled and to enable it you will need to return to the country where it was activated so the roaming resets.
From the grapevine, Starlink has been fast and loose in enforcing that. As a result, there has not been any kit gymnastics happening to get that roaming window reset. But for how long will the leniency last? Makes it pretty uncertain given the shocker that Starlink pulled in SA.
That said, you can still get a legitimate Starlink kit even in a region where the service is not available.
Sometime last year, Paratus Group in Zambia was awarded the license by Starlink to resell kits in all African regions, and in Zimbabwe Dandemutande also announced that it is also partnering with Starlink to bring in Kits into Zimbabwe.
There is a catch. Official distributors like Paratus Group are only selling business package kits which are more expensive than residential kits.
Also, it’s nice that these guys are licensed by Starlink but that does not exempt them from the wrath of the national regulator.
So what we are saying is…
- Starlink deactivated some 400 customer accounts managed by StarSat.
- All other accounts are still working.
- It is highly unlikely Zim Accounts will be affected in the same way.
- ICASA and POTRAZ are still on the hunt for Starlink users.