Starlink to be shut down in South Africa

A standard Starlink kit
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Starlink users in South Africa will have their satellite internet services terminated at the end of the month due to violation of its terms and conditions, the company has warned.

News24 saw an email sent by Starlink to many South African users last night stating that their services will be terminated on 30 April.

“If you are operating your Starlink kit in an area other than areas designated as ‘available’ on the Starlink Availability Map, we would like to remind you that this is in violation of the Starlink terms and starting April 30th, 2024, you will be unable to connect to the internet except to access your Starlink account where you can make updates to your account,” the email read.

Starlink has a fleet of thousands of low earth orbit satellites that have been able to provide high-speed, low latency internet almost anywhere on the globe. This has been viewed as a game changer in rural areas, which have historically been difficult to connect profitably. The company is owned by the SA-born Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Starlink has been unable to obtain a license to operate from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), with local ownership requirements from historically disadvantaged backgrounds seen as the main stumbling block.

Icasa has said that any applicant needs to be 30% owned by historically disadvantaged groups to be considered for an operating license.

READ MORE | Starlink must be 30% owned by historically disadvantaged groups if it wants to operate in SA – Icasa

But, this did not stop many in South Africa from using creative methods to access the services. Starlink offers a host of packages, including a roaming offering.

Thousands of people in South Africa, assisted by several service providers, took out roaming packages in countries where Starlink was licensed to operate and used the devices locally.

Icasa clarified that using Starlink in this way was illegal in a government gazette published in November last year.

Starlink also said that this was not the intended use of the product in the email sent to users overnight, explaining that service will be restricted if the device is used for two continuous months outside of the country where service was ordered.

“The ‘Mobile – Regional’ plans are intended for temporary travel and transit, not for permanent use in a location. If you have been using a ‘Mobile – Regional’ plan for more than two months outside of the country in which you ordered Starlink, you must either see Support FAQs to change your account country or return to the country in which your service was ordered. Otherwise, your service will be restricted,” the Starlink email said.

Starlink said that anyone who wants to make Starlink available in their region should contact the relevant local authorities.

READ MORE | Musk’s Starlink is changing Africa, but SA still faces a long wait – here’s why

Starlink is already live in two of SA’s neighbouring countries, Mozambique and Eswatini, and is expected to go live in a host of other countries on the continent over the course of the year. – News24