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Starlink Reportedly Instructed To Shutdown In Zimbabwe By Government

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Starlink Reportedly Instructed To Shutdown In Zimbabwe By Government

Authored by L.S.M Kabweza via,

Techzim can reveal that the government of Zimbabwe has instructed Starlink to shut down services in the country. Users of the service received an email from the satellite internet service provider today, advising them it had been directed to disable services.

Said the email:

You are currently using Starlink in an unauthorised territory, As a result. Starlink has been directed by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) to disable your service.

We will continue to work with POTRAZ to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals to turn on Starlink services in Zimbabwe as soon as possible. We encourage you to contact POTRAZ at [email protected] or +263 242 333032 to communicate your support for Starlink to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals in Zimbabwe.

As described In your Terms of Service, Starlink does not guarantee when or where its Mobile or Mobile Priority Services Plans will be available. Use of such services Is dependent on many factors, including obtaining or maintaining the necessary regulatory approvals which are subject to change.

You may pause service and billing by following the Instructions here or continue service and use your Starlink service in an area we currently serve (see map here), If you opt to pause service, you can reach out to support and we will issue a service credit for any remainder of the current billing period.

Techzim can confirm several users in Zimbabwe have received the email. One user of the service user we spoke to said their terminal is still working but they think it’s just a matter of time before it’s disabled.

Effectively what’s supposed to happen next is that the terminals will stop working. This would mean even Starlink customers that are just visiting the country and have brought with their terminal, will not be able to use it. Or maybe allowed to just a few days per visit. We’re not sure.

The notice suggests Starlink is aware these devices were bought, registered, activated for the purpose of use in Zimbabwe, as it does not mention the need to return the terminal to the country of origin.

Why Starlink is such a big deal in Zimbabwe

To use Starlink, Zimbabweans would mostly buy the kits from unofficial importers of the kits who bring them in from from countries where the service is sold legally (like Mozambique, Zambia, Eswatini etc..). The prices would range from about $600 to $1500 depending on the seller. Installing the kit is generally easy and to operate it in Zimbabwe, they set their account to a roaming service.

The price of unlimited internet from Starlink with the roaming is about US $38, which customers would pay to the company directly. Ultimately, the service is popular in Zimbabwe because the price of an unlimited internet package by the country’s internet providers is at least US $140.

That and the fact that Starlink can work literally anywhere in the country – even the remotest pockets of the country where people there’s no infrastructure for other types of connectivity.

A source Techzim has spoken to, who has been involved in selling internet services in Zimbabwe, estimates there are about 5,000 Starlink terminals in Zimbabwe.

Why it is Illegal to use

In 2023, POTRAZ issued a statement warning Zimbabweans that using Starlink was illegal. Zimbabweans were ofcourse incentivised to ignore this, and the black market for terminals continued to thrive.

Coming under pressure from the market to explain why a more useful service was illegal to use, POTRAZ said they had no issues licensing Starlink as long as the company complied with the country’s laws – read fees, taxes, and ability for government to snoop on the traffic or disable the service at wish if the politics demanded it. Licensed operators in the country pay these costs (part of why the internet is so expensive in Zimbabwe) and allow government to intercept the internet when it wishes.

POTRAZ repeated that while Starlink had expressed interest to regularise operations in Zimbabwe, the company had not been licensed. At least 2 customers of the company were arrested this year for using the service.

Why would Starlink comply with a POTRAZ demand?

One question that people may have is if POTRAZ can technically switch Starlink off. They cannot, and in fact, that’s why they don’t want the service operating.

So if POTRAZ cannot technically switch if off, why would Starlink agree to do it? First, we don’t know if Starlink is agreeing and will go through with the disconnections. However, generally, except in very extreme situations a company would want to comply with the instructions of a government where they wish to operate in the future.

If Starlink is interested in selling to the 4 million Zimbabwean households market that may want a connection in the future, it’s in their interest to work with government and not antagonise it.

Shutdowns in Africa

Earlier this year, Starlink reportedly deactivated what was estimated to be between 300 and 400 devices in South Africa. The deactivated accounts were deemed to be “improperly” operating as they were being provided by an unofficial third party, Startsat.

There we also reports last month suggesting that users, possibly in DRC, experienced the Shut down that Starlink has issued in Zimbabwe.

It is possible that other governments observing this, will learn it’s something they too can do, and more shutdown orders may be coming.

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/12/2024 – 14:20

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