Starlink Halts Services in Zimbabwe Amid Regulatory Challenges

April 12, 2024
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HARARE, Zimbabwe — Starlink, the satellite internet service owned by SpaceX, has ceased its operations in Zimbabwe following orders from the nation’s telecoms regulator, according to a report from Techzim, a local technology news outlet. The shutdown affects approximately 5,000 users who were informed via email that their access was unauthorized under current regulations.

The directive issued by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) instructs Starlink to disable services immediately due to lack of necessary regulatory approvals. “You are currently using Starlink in an unauthorized territory. As a result, Starlink has been directed by POTRAZ to disable your service,” the email stated.

In an ongoing effort to comply with local laws, Starlink expressed its commitment to working with POTRAZ to secure the necessary licenses to resume operations. The company encouraged users to show their support for this initiative by contacting the regulator directly.

This development follows reports that in February, POTRAZ disclosed that although Starlink showed interest in obtaining a license to operate within Zimbabwe, it had not formally applied for one. Consequently, users operating the service were inadvertently violating the law.

The interruption of Starlink’s services not only impacts users within Zimbabwe but also poses challenges for travelers to the country with Starlink kits, as these cannot be operated within its borders. However, the service remains operational in other registered countries including Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Eswatini, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, among others.

The affordability of Starlink’s services, priced at around $38 per month for unlimited internet access, had made it a popular choice in Zimbabwe, offering a cheaper alternative to other internet service providers.

Reports last month indicated that the Zimbabwean government had been in discussions with Starlink officials regarding the licensing issues, suggesting that efforts were underway to find a resolution that would allow the service to continue.

This shutdown in Zimbabwe mirrors a similar situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where Starlink users also faced service disruptions due to regulatory issues.

Starlink has advised its Zimbabwean customers that they can either pause their service and billing, with a provision to receive a credit for the remainder of the billing period, or continue using the service in areas where it is currently available.

As the situation develops, the company promised to update customers as soon as regulatory approvals are obtained to re-enable services in Zimbabwe.