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Zimbabwe in Starlink U-turn

by Staff reporter
13 Mar 2024 at 05:42hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE appears to have made a U-turn over Starlink amid revelations senior government officials are in talks with the satellite internet service provider owned by billionaire Elon Musk.

Zimbabwe has not licensed Starlink to sell its product due to "security reasons" despite several companies including parastatals and individuals already using its services.

According to a reliable source close to the developments, discussions between government representatives and officials from Starlink are currently underway.

"Government is now bringing in Starlink and they are meeting officials from Starlink. You can confirm with Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services minister [Tatenda] Mavetera for more information. But she said that it is still confidential," a source told NewsDay.

Asked about the latest government was courting Starlink, Mavetera said: "Can you wait a bit to do that story, call me tomorrow [today], there is something that I am just waiting for. Maybe by Wednesday [today], I will be able to comment."

Sources in government, however,  told NewsDay that government's latest stance comes after a realisation that it was a fighting a losing battle amid an influx of Starlink gadgets into Zimbabwe.

Recently, former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation chief executive officer Adelaide Chikurungu was pushed out of the parastatal on allegations that she acquired a Starlink internet kit for the State broadcaster, among other charges, despite the government's position on its illegality.

Previously, ZBC used LiveView and Aviwest internet services for live streaming in rural areas where connectivity from local mobile network operators was non-existent.

The State broadcaster failed to honour its contractual obligations with LiveView and Aviwest Streamhub, which saw the broadcaster being cut off leaving authorities opting for Starlink as a stop gap measure.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) recently said that Starlink had not applied for an operating licence.

Government's moves to engage Starlink comes despite an operation to apprehend those using the service. On February 22, a Guruve-based Chinese mining company, San He, was fined US$$700 by a Bindura magistrate for using Starlink equipment in violation of provisions of the Postal and Telecommunications Act.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority of Zimbabwe (NPAZ), San He's unlawful use of Starlink equipment came to light on December 5, 2023 when the police received a report from Potraz.

The police proceeded to the mine where they confiscated the Starlink router and antenna.

Last week, Zambezi Boutique Private Limited, a Victoria Falls-based company, was fined US$500 for unauthorised use of Starlink internet services.

According to the NPAZ, the company was found guilty by a Victoria Falls magistrate of violating the Postal and Telecommunications Act Chapter 12:05, which prohibits the "possession, control or operation of a radio station without a radio station license."

Starlink is currently available in several African countries, including Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi.

The primary benefit of Starlink is that it offers faster speeds and lower latency in remote areas where satellite and cellular internet are the only options.

It is way cheaper, uncapped and faster than services offered by local providers.

Source - newsday