Starlink Applies for Zim Licence




Gift Machengete
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THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) says the global satellite internet provider, Starlink, which is owned by American tycoon, Mr Elon Musk, has applied to operate in the country.

Potraz director-general Dr Gift Machengete revealed this in Bulawayo on Tuesday during a question and answer session at a business function organised by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICTs), Postal and Courier Services on the sidelines of the ongoing 64th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).

Starlink has become a topic of concern in the country’s ICT sector, with questions being raised on how it operates given its continued consumer growth and popularity worldwide.

Responding to the issue, Dr Machengete said the regulator was seized with the matter and was processing the application papers by Starlink.

“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,” said Dr Machengete.

“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.”

He acknowledged that there have been some illegal users of Starlink in the country who have since been cut off.

“So, in short we have not banned them. 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,” said Dr Machengete.

“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”.

He said the authority has a role to play in the operation of the telecommunications sector and will follow the right channels in ensuring services are provided and they meet the standards.

“Let me explain that at Potraz we are the licencing authority for telecommunications and we actually have a licencing framework and that framework is a converged framework whereby we check if the technology that you bring is not relevant, it is technology neutral and to reinforce that we already had geo-stationary satellites.

“We already have geo-stationary satellites licenced so there is no way we would then be blocking Starlink because we are technology neutral,” said Dr Machengete.

Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by Starlink Services, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American aerospace company, SpaceX, providing coverage to over 70 countries. It also aims to provide global mobile broadband.

SpaceX started launching Starlink satellites in 2019. As of early March 2024 it consisted of over 6 000 mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) that communicate with designated ground transceivers.

Nearly 12 000 satellites are planned to be deployed, with a possible later extension to 34 400. SpaceX announced reaching more than one million subscribers in December 2022, 1,5 million subscribers in May 2023, and two million subscribers in September 2023.