Starlink applies for license to operate in Zimbabwe

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

Starlink has finally applied for a license to provide internet services in Zimbabwe. The government revealed this during a QnA session at the ongoing Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo.

Dr Gift Machengete, the director-general of telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, said in response to a question on Starlink customers being cut off:

“Then, why is Starlink not operating right now? The simple answer is Starlink had not applied and we would be foolish to then go and say come and apply, please. Now they have come to apply and we are in the process of looking at their application.

“We are also a regulator, we need to see how we regulate them. We also have to look at consumer and data protection. But, currently we are in the process of looking at their application.”

Earlier this month, Starlink users in the country were told by Starlink it was cutting them off for using the service in an unauthorised country.

Starlink customers complained the government’s actions are contradictory. On one hand, the government claims to support the adoption of ICT enabled digital services for economic growth, yet the ban disconnects Zimbabweans from online tools many rely on for work and study.

There has also been concern that the banning is motivated to shield incumbent internet providers from competition despite their high fees. Incumbent operators like Liquid Telecom, TelOne, Telco and Dandemutande charge customers at least 3 times the Starlink monthly subscription.

The government confirmed asking Starlink to cut off Zimbabweans:

“What we have just done is that those who have been using Starlink terminals were asked to have Starlink switch them off because we cannot allow illegality”

“I think they have been switched off and maybe there is some outcry. But, you see those were illegal and they will be regularised when they are licenced”.

Zimbabwe’s fears of US interference

There has been mention that the Zimbabwean government fears allowing a US owned company to operate the most accessible internet service in the country. The fear is it would make the Zim government vulnerable to interference. The relationship between the two is not the most cordial. And Starlink works very closely with the US government on a number of things.

The counter argument to this has been that at $600 for a Starlink kit, few Zimbabweans can afford it anyway, so it would never dominate. The cheaper monthly subscriptions count for nothing if you can’t buy the kit. This initial price issue could be fixed if financial institutions work out some credit packages.

Households could also pool resources to buy and share a single kit via some local neighbourhood network or sorts (illegal yes, but hey). 4 houses sharing would knock the price down to $200 a household. Zimbabweans already do borehole sharing. Potential for Starlink to dominate the market is there.

As for US surveillance, Zim government departments already rely on Gmail, Facebook, X (also owned by the Starlink owner, Elon Musk) and other such apps for official communication. Starlink would just be one more thing.

It’s not that these fears are unfounded. The US itself has made such moves against Chinese companies like Huawei and other Chinese companies. And the Chinese have reciprocated.

When will Starlink be licensed?

This is hard to say. After applying, it could take several months for Starlink to be licensed. As you probably figure from the above, Starlink licensing is not just a commercial issue. It’s also political.

Earlier this year, the Minister of ICT, Tatenda Mavetera seemed to indicate the government is keen to have a similar satellite technology internet provided by a friendly-to-Zim country like China or Russia. It’s possible the government will try to buy some time to see if its friends can match Starlink. Zimbabweans will have to keep the pressure on.

Or maybe they really have had a change of heart, and Starlink will be live within a month or so. What do you think?

47 comments

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  1. Vene Elon

    I think the only reason starlink blocked teapot users is because they want the Zim government to grant them a license, if the government rejects their application, I think will go back to using our blocked starlinks.

    1. Anonymous

      I tend to think so too

    2. Tkt

      Your might be right there. As a fix to the Gvt, which also happens to havo no power itself to switch these things off, I see Starlink reOpening these closed kits
      Ko, vangani dini kana ikapamha futi silently & only block those being used by the Government

    3. Tavar

      My neighbor has just set up his Starlink antenna…

      1. Sam

        How is that going?

  2. Userr

    Good ,very good, competition in the internet business was long overdue.

    We have only one private player who has been sucking us dry ,the rest of the players are govt owned ,and do not offer to the best of service (esp connectivity). The imbalance was never good for the consumer on the pricing side ,becoz the lack of other options. I really do hope they get approved

  3. Chief Milker

    Last year POTRAZ said Starlink had applied and then the minster said they hadn’t, now they are saying they have applied again. Interesting 🤣

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      Did they?
      All along it was “Starlink has expressed interest”.
      different.

      1. Tkt

        Yes they did say that. Sometime between July-Oct if I ain’t mistaken

  4. Greg

    Entrepreneurs can invest in starlinks and offer internet at a more affordable cost.. that’s the opportunity for starlink. People who work remotely for foreign companies can also buy starlinks.

    Schools, universities and colleges in both rural and urban areas can buy starlinks to offer internet to their students.

  5. starlink hakuna boys dzangu

    wasting your time being hopeful. Its a dead lock. Starlink has a terrible model ( For Gvts and Regulators) because it wants to do direct to consumer.

    Secondly we have a telecoms act that denies any telecom license to a company with no Zinbabweans. Its the LAW! there is nothing called waving a law for a company unless its an Statutury Instrument that will repeal that law.

    Nothing to be hopeful about. I dont care about starlink, the telecoms act needs to be revised and allow as many players and supporting local players the most

    1. Ilyknice

      Utter nonsense. Very soon starlink will communicate directly with mobile handsets. Let’s see them try to block that.

      1. hakuna starlink boys dzangu

        usandiitire hasha. Dorect to mobile goes through uour mobile network operator. nyangwe ukati nonsense ndozviripo and starlink will have to comply. usandiitire hash ndirikutokuudza zvichatoitika

        1. Truthteller

          Lies, mobile starlink doesn’t use mobile network operator.

          Unlike traditional mobile networks that rely on a network of cell towers, Direct to Cell connects mobile phones directly to Starlink’s satellites in orbit. This eliminates the need for ground infrastructure like cell towers in remote areas.

          1. Unchofunately

            Unfortunately, Starlink will truly be operating direct to cell via local partners, ie, networks.

          2. omg

            go on their site and read before u argue over things you dont know

          3. Nyagi

            You are very right. Direct to Cell, without government or local network operators’ interference

        2. D.K.

          The GPS we use on our phones connect directly to the GPS satellites. If it connected via cell towers our creative mobile operators would be charging for it. That is why there are no GPS bundles on the networks.

          1. sd

            you are telling the the truth the Snapdragon Chips for fones , huawei latest models and even iphone now has tech that allows direct satelite communication just like a satelite fone

    2. Anonymous

      There probably will be a starlink zimbabwe office if they get approved – kinda like Dstv

  6. On Hold

    My god! The tension is killing me. I can’t afford the full-size kit, but SpaceX is cooking up a ‘portable’ size dish. If it comes with a discount, game over!

    1. Anonymous

      They offer huge discounts. Dishes will be available for 300 or less

  7. Muzukuru wa ED

    Let’s hope when Starlink licence application is approved, the price of the kit or subscription fee won’t be regulated by our anti progress government

    1. hahahahahaha

      lol approved? 😂😂😂😂 vanhu imimi hamuna kusiyana nemunhu anoroora njapisi mubhawa and expect her to be so loyal to you 😂😂😂😂😂

      Zimbabwe is the last country on the alphabet, we will always be number last on EVERYTHING!

  8. Pluto

    Elon Musk can be a dic most times. If the gvt declines Starlink application to operate then we may even find ourselves connecting to the service even via mobile, for free.

  9. Nick

    Potraz is holding up Vision 2030

  10. D.K.

    Like a marriage or ZBC, the user does not need a license to get the devices, one only needs to have subscription up to date with Starlink. I think we are taking Elon Musk to be a mini god who can control what is between us and the low earth orbit satellites, unfortunately God controls all, and a licence cannot give Musk the power he will never have.
    Let us have the Starlink service and we can give excess data to the local service providers to subsidise their customers and lower the tariffs, increasing demand for their services!

  11. Anonymous

    Would it not benefit remote Border Posts, Police Stations, etc who could then come online. All the remote Border Posts are still using books to manually enter your details. Let’s think forward for once.

  12. Fuji

    I am a TelOne ADSL client. Since it was confirmed that Starlink has applied for an operating licence. I have noticed a dramatic improvement in both speed and and reliability of the service!
    🤔😃😏🤭😁😄😆😅🤣😂

    1. emerson dee

      😂😂😂😂😂

  13. .

    Indegenisation policy….is it still there or it’s cousins?….

    1. Muzukuru wa ED

      Indigenization policy is no longer available but foreign companies to operate in Zimbabwe they have to grease the hands of Zim One first

  14. Prince Chibaya

    Ko why not giving anything concerning our new currency looking at technological sides

    1. Muzukuru wa ED

      Thats not their area, their major focus is tech and anything that is not related to tech is non of their business…by the way Pindula ichiri kushanda mahara here

      1. Indomitable Lion

        Pindula is not working even with data

    2. Anonymous

      It all depends on having subject matter experts that are willing to be contributors.

  15. Johns’ No

    Unless vakomana ve ZANU have a hand in Musk’s pocket (which he wont tolerate) there will be no Starlink.

    The mere fact that Zimbabweans could have unfettered access to FREE information is an existential threat to ZANU PF.

    ZANU remains where it is because it, through DEAD BC, and Herald have control of the narrative and have had it since 1980. I think there are people who, today, would completely fall apart and be totally confused if we suddenly had a tv channel or media stream openly broadcasting anti-zanu propaganda and zanu could not switch it off. That would be a watershed moment and the begining of the end for those kleptomurderers

  16. Anonymous

    Kkk

  17. Anonymous

    Satellite internet is really good for rural zim it would allow rural friendly folk like me to migrate there and establish a viable business for my pockets sake also thus benefiting the rural kin … clinics . Schools … and agric businesses would thrive and get better market for their crop … but then .. … …. ….. .. … .____-___ bureaucracy loosely saying . . Wil some how 🤔 hinder our efforts … its vey sad

    1. X

      It’s already there been around for decades

  18. Dzidzai, Rekai, Kobra

    Hazvipere mushe, vaudze vavhotere pa masvingo, hondo hatidi.

    AFZ Facebook.

    1. Rekai Chirinda

      Guys i’m missing my Huawei P10, LG G2, iTel A60 and my Gazzu Car Kit. I don’t want them back because I lost them, please new owners take care of the LG G2, it’s super rare.

  19. s.h.!.t.

    s.h.!.t. this is old news, almost 1 week old now … any updates on this or anything else?

  20. Anonymous

    Just know kuti dhiri ririkupihwa wicknel chivhayo. STATLINK pairikuapprover irikuya under chivharo ao we should be ready for price hikes. Remember these words🤞🤞

  21. X

    Starlink is a dangerous company both for governments and citizens around the world, the company answers to Mask and to extend the american government, that is just too much power for one person, how does our government regulate that company, what about the already established local companies that offer the same services, those countries that licensed that company will soon revoke those licenses beçause they didn’t think through

    1. Userr

      Local companies are overcharging us ,that must end

    2. DC

      Who can be more dangerous and greedy than our government. It’s better to deal with dangerous people who insure growth. Than deal with people who claim to be reliable yet bring nothing to the table except empty promises. To say the least Russians and Chines are more dangerous than any other government ever in this world. Those MF are evil cunning son of B****. So you choose would you rather work with a racist Rus or a reformed American. I’m not saying the Americans are perfect but atleast they’ve reformed over the years. But the Rus on the other hand are still stuck in there ways.

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