Starlink Seeks Zim License: Potraz

April 25, 2024
Potraz says Starlink has applied for license to operate in Zimbabwe | Report Focus News
Potraz says Starlink has applied for license to operate in Zimbabwe

ZIMBABWE | The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) announced that Starlink, the global satellite internet provider owned by American tycoon Mr. Elon Musk, has applied to operate in the country. Dr. Gift Machengete, director-general of Potraz, disclosed this during a question and answer session in Bulawayo on Tuesday. The session was part of a business function organized by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICTs), Postal and Courier Services on the side lines of the ongoing 64th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).

Starlink has stirred discussions in Zimbabwe’s ICT sector, with queries arising regarding its operations amid its increasing consumer base and global popularity. Addressing these concerns, Dr. Machengete stated that the regulator is actively reviewing Starlink’s application.

“Why isn’t Starlink operational yet?” Dr. Machengete responded, “The simple answer is Starlink hadn’t applied, and it would be imprudent to solicit applications from them before they did. Now that they’ve applied, we’re in the process of evaluating their application.”

“We, as regulators, must establish how to oversee them. Consumer and data protection are also paramount considerations. However, we are currently focused on processing their application.”

Dr. Machengete acknowledged the presence of illegal Starlink users in the country, who have since been disconnected. “To clarify, we haven’t banned them. We’ve merely instructed illegal users to disconnect their terminals because we cannot condone illegal activities,” he explained. “I believe they’ve complied with the directive, though there might be some discontent. Nevertheless, those activities were unlawful and will be rectified once licensed.”

He emphasized the regulatory role of Potraz in the telecommunications sector, emphasizing adherence to standards and proper licensing procedures. “At Potraz, we are the licensing authority for telecommunications. Our licensing framework is technology-neutral, meaning we evaluate the relevance of any technology introduced,” Dr. Machengete elaborated. “We’ve already licensed geo-stationary satellites, so there’s no reason to impede Starlink’s operations.”

Starlink, operated by Starlink Services, LLC, a subsidiary of SpaceX, provides satellite internet coverage to over 70 countries and aims to offer global mobile broadband. SpaceX initiated the launch of its satellites in 2019, with over 6,000 satellites deployed in low Earth orbit (LEO) as of early March 2024. Plans include deploying nearly 12,000 satellites, with potential expansion to 34,400. In December 2022, the company announced over one million subscribers, reaching 1.5 million in May 2023, and two million in September 2023.