Starlink stalled in Zimbabwe but off the ground soon in Madagascar

Satellite communications company Starlink has halted internet services in Zimbabwe until it receives licensing approval from the nation’s telecommunications regulator.

The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has asked Starlink to disconnect all kits that were illegally operating in Zimbabwe on the basis that the service has not yet been licensed.

SpaceX, Starlink’s parent company, apparently needs to first submit a formal application to provide services in Zimbabwe.

In January we reported POTRAZ warnings that individuals and businesses discovered distributing and advertising equipment to access Starlink internet services could face arrest. However, local news reports indicate that trade in Starlink kits seems to have continued via social media platforms.

Zimbabwe is among several African nations, including neighbouring South Africa, that have not yet licensed the service.

There’s better news for Starlink from Madagascar, where the government appears keener to make the most of a service that could address at least some of the country’s connectivity issues. 

Starlink has obtained the agreement of the Malagasy government to launch its commercial services in Madagascar. Details of the date of the launch of Starlink's commercial activities in Madagascar were not disclosed, though the company has publicised plans to launch its high-speed connectivity services in Madagascar from the third quarter of 2024.

As the Ecofin news service points out, the Malagasy government has been implementing a policy of total liberalisation of the ICT sector since April. It is in this context that the Communication Technology Regulatory Authority (ARTEC) launched, in November 2023, an international call for tenders for the establishment and operation of public satellite communication networks in Madagascar. 

Whether Starlink will actually be affordable for many people remains to be seen. Still, with an estimated population of around 28.8 million, about 80% of whom do not have access to the internet, satellite services seem likely to have some appeal.

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