Many African countries have launched the Starlink satellite internet service owned by SpaceX, including Mozambique, Kenya, Mauritius, and Rwanda, with 19 more African countries planning to launch in Q3 and Q4 of 2023 and 2024. Starlink’s chain of satellites provides high-speed internet with a download speed of around 50 -200 Mbps.
Countries in East Africa that will be launching Starlink are Tanzania and Burundi this year and Uganda in 2024. West African countries set to launch in 2023 are Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Chad, while Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Liberia will go live in 2024. Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are North African countries getting linked with Starlink in 2024.
Starlink has nearly 4000 satellites, which means the data is gathered very quickly and frequently updates.
Regulations in South Africa
Starlink provides high-speed satellite internet to the world, and South Africa is sitting in the shadow of the Starlink service because, according to Communications Minister Mondli Gungubele, Starlink cannot officially operate in the country unless it meets the Internet Service Provider (ISP) ownership equity rules. 30% of the ownership equity must be held by Historically Disadvantage Groups (HDG) as stated in the Electronic Communications Act (ECA), section 9(2)(b).
At present, there is yet to be an indication from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) what the timeline for implementation might be until Starlink can meet the provisions required for equity for HDG. Many other African countries have found ways to overcome any policy hurdles to launch Starlink who aims to bridge the digital divide by supplying high-speed satellite internet to areas where infrastructure is less developed.
Connecting South Africa to bridge the digital divide by providing high-speed internet access will result in opportunities to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship and create jobs, thereby boosting the economy. Industry, researchers, and governments could benefit from an additional specialized satellite service provided by Starlink called Swarm, which can help with things like monitoring and planning of water resource usage and agricultural decision-making.
Roaming Starlink Sneaky Subscriptions
There are ways for South Africans to access the Starlink service, and many thousands have taken these routes. Starlink can be accessed anywhere globally and has global roaming features. Many people have opted into Starlink from another country and courier or collect the kit.
An ISP in the Northern Cape, IT LEC, can import and manage the service on behalf of South African clients. The Starlink kit costs around R15 000.00, and the monthly subscription is R1 799.00 per month with IT LEC. The account can then be transferred to the customer to manage once the kit is installed.
With so many African countries already using Starlink and many that are about to launch, let us hope South Africa can find a way to overcome the difficulties of equity and regulation to allow such a practical solution for satellite internet to become a reality for those challenged by the digital difference to thrive by having access to high-speed internet. May South Africa arise triumphant from the Starlink Shadow it is currently facing.