Botswana Licenses Starlink

Botswana Licenses Starlink While South Africa Shuts Down Resellers

While South Africa Shuts Down Resellers, Botswana Licenses Starlink.
In a significant move, Botswana has granted a license to SpaceX’s Starlink unit. South Africa has simultaneously cracked down on unauthorized Starlink resellers. These contrasting developments highlight the varied regulatory landscapes and approaches to satellite internet services across the continent.

Starlink Licensed in Botswana

Botswana has officially welcomed Starlink. The satellite internet service provider from SpaceX. President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced the licensing decision after a meeting with Starlink executives in Dallas, pushing for expedited approval. “I gave them two weeks to fast-track this, and they have already been given a licence,” Masisi said in a statement posted on his office’s Facebook page.

The move makes Botswana the latest African nation to permit Starlink’s operation, following similar decisions by other countries, including Zimbabwe. Starlink serves over 2.6 million customers globally. And provides broadband internet via a network of approximately 5,500 satellites. This technology deliver high-speed internet to remote and underserved areas.

The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority has not commented on the specifics. But the expectation is that Starlink will soon be operational, enhancing internet accessibility for farmers and other remote users where traditional fixed broadband is unavailable.

South Africa Cracks Down on Unauthorized Resellers

Starlink resellersIn contrast to Botswana’s embrace of Starlink. South Africa has seen a major crackdown on unauthorized Starlink resellers. Starsat Africa, an unlicensed Starlink reseller, has ceased operations due to “ongoing market instability,” following a series of enforcement actions and regulatory scrutiny.

Starsat Africa, which claimed to have supplied around 12,000 South African customers with Starlink kits, had its website and social media channels taken down, and its customer support lines became unresponsive. Customers, who paid between R10,000 and R15,000 for their kits, have been left without connectivity for months, struggling to transfer their Starlink roaming accounts to their own names.

The turmoil began when IT Lec, a Northern Cape-based ISP, transferred its Starlink customers to Starsat Africa in August 2023. This move was prompted by a cease-and-desist order from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), due to the lack of necessary operating licenses. Furthermore, Starlink itself demanded IT Lec transfer all its customers to their accounts, a demand that went unmet by Starsat Africa, leading to the deactivation of over 300 user accounts.

Starsat Africa’s continued management of customer accounts violated Starlink’s terms of service, which strictly prohibits third-party companies from reselling or managing residential accounts. This resulted in Starlink blocking hundreds of kits provided by Starsat Africa, affecting about 10% of its claimed customer base.

The fallout has left many South African customers frustrated and without internet service. Legal experts suggest that Starsat Africa’s actions were the primary cause of the service disruptions, not the resale of kits by individual customers as the company alleged. Despite claiming to be on a pre-approval list for Starlink distributors, Starsat Africa failed to provide any evidence of such approval.

While Botswana moves forward with its Starlink rollout. promising enhanced connectivity for its remote regions, South Africa’s stringent regulatory stance highlights the challenges and complexities of satellite internet services in different jurisdictions. These developments underscore the need for clear regulatory frameworks and responsible service provision to ensure reliable internet access across the continent.

Stay tuned to Ecotel for further updates on internet services and regulatory changes affecting connectivity in Africa.

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