- Starlink is now available in four countries in Africa – South Africa is not one of them.
- More than a thousand South Africans use the backdoor method to access satellite internet services.
- But they pay a premium to do so.
- For more stories, visit Tech and Trends Homepage.
After launching Starlink in Kenya on Tuesday, the services of the SpaceX-owned satellite internet provider are now officially available in four countries in Africa, with many more set to come online before the end of the year.
But in South Africa, regulatory hurdles mean there is currently no set timeline for when the country will be granted official access to Starlink’s powerful satellite internet services.
Starlink is a satellite internet provider owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.
It has a fleet of low earth orbit satellites that provide high speed internet worldwide.
But to use Starlink services, a subscription to the services is required, as well as the Starlink kit, which includes an antenna and a wifi router.
And since Starlink does not currently have a license to operate in South Africa from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), it is impossible to get a subscription and purchase a Starlink suite for someone using a South African address.
South Africa is covered by the Starlink network, which means it will be possible for paying customers with a subscription to connect.
ICASA has not yet responded to News24’s questions, however he confirmed to TechCentral in April It has met twice with SpaceX and said that Starlink has not applied for a license.
Other African countries have cleared regulatory hurdles and enabled Starlink to operate in the country already or have plans to launch in the remainder of 2023 or in 2024.
Starlink announced on Tuesday Kenya has joined Nigeria, Rwanda and Mozambique in providing access.
Starlink contains a file Availability map on their website that says where the coverage is, where their services are located, and provides an indication of when certain countries are expected to start offering their services.
Of the countries that share a border with South Africa, Mozambique already has Starlink available, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Eswatini are set to launch Starlink before the end of the year, and Lesotho is in a similar position as South Africa, with no service history listed.
Angola, Tanzania, Senegal, Ghana and Zambia are among the countries set to start offering Starlink services before the end of 2023, based on the availability map.
Back door access
Starlink customers who get a roaming package can take their kit with them and access Internet services wherever there is a network connection.
This allows someone to install Starlink on the roof of a car for example and access it in any country or region where there is network coverage.
With this method, more than a thousand South Africans were already using Starlink, News24 reported last week.
one company in the Eastern Cape, IT Lecoperates as a third party service provider that imports the Starlink suite for South Africa and manages subscriptions on behalf of customers.
The company has provided access to Starlink to about 1,700 customers to date and receives about 10 to 20 requests for blocks a day, according to IT Lec manager and investor Mauritz Coetzee.
He said the download speed South Africans get with Starlink is an average of 50 and 200mbps.
Coetzee added that the upload speed was most stable at around 15 to 20 Mbps.
News24 told IT Lec that the Starlink kit, which is often imported from the US, which includes taxes and courier costs, costs R15,000.
The monthly subscription cost is R1 799 thereafter.
It is possible to see the price other countries pay to access Starlink by entering an address from that country into the ordering portal at its website.
In Kenya, around R11 250 (Kshs 89,000) has to be paid for Starlink devices, and R997 for the monthly subscription for a regional roaming package.
In Mozambique, R11 378 (40492 metical Mozambican) must be paid for the hardware and R1 024 per month for the regional roaming package.