Elon Musk’s Starlink rattles internet service providers in Zimbabwe
By Garikai Mafirakureva | Masvingo Mirror |
The era of hanging emails, failed file downloads, and unstable internet will soon be a thing of the past if Starlink’s global satellite internet service is rolled out in Zimbabwe. Elon Musk’s Starlink is regarded as one of the greatest innovations of our age. In Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Mauritius are already connected.
Starlink is being rolled out country by country as more and more satellites get put into orbit. So far, about 4,238 satellites have been launched in 80 blast-offs over the past three years. Several other competing services are said to be starting up around the world.
According to its website, Starlink satellite internet services will be available in Zimbabwe this year. It already has 100% coverage of Zimbabwe. Several companies and individuals are allegedly roaming using Starlink in Zimbabwe.
Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said if the government is approached, it will consider the application. She further said Starlink has not yet approached the government to provide its services in Zimbabwe. “I am not aware that Starlink has approached for this business opportunity,” said Mutsvangwa.
However, since the announcement by Starlink in December last year that it has an interest in the Zimbabwean market, consumers are in suspense. Speculation is that one of the service providers is already holding marathon business meetings with Starlink.
On its website, Starlink informs consumers to be ready for its entry into the Zimbabwean market. The information is contained in a section on the Zimbabwean market.
“Order now to reserve your Starlink. Starlink is targeting services in your area starting in 2023. Availability is subject to regulatory approval. Within each coverage area, orders are fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Everyone hopes our government will embrace the future and allow Starlink to partner with other service providers in the country. The government and individual politicians are accused of wrapping investors in red tape and have tricky prerequisites which will require, among other things, giving up 40% of your equity.
Post and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) director Gift Machengete could not be reached for comment as his mobile was not available.
Zimbabwe Information and Communication Technology (ZICT) chairperson Jacob Mutisi said the coming in of Starlink is an opportunity to do White space analysis. “In business, white space is the opportunity itself-the area where a company can innovate or expand, upsell and cross-sell its products and services.
“It is the process companies use to evaluate their existing products, services, and markets to address unmet customer needs. So, I am sure our local service providers have started the white space analysis.
“The coming in of Starlink will help improve internet services in rural areas, and the prices will come down. In remote areas where it is not possible to lay, cables-this is an absolute game-changer. It allows internet coverage at extremely high speeds in very remote areas because it’s provided by a set of satellites. I wish Starlink to come to Zimbabwe soon,” said Mutisi.
NetOne Head of Marketing and Public Relations Roseline Chisveto said their technicians will be looking at the impact that can be caused by the coming in of Starlink. “I will have to forward all your questions to our technicians. They will assess the impact, if any, that can be there. So, I cannot give you a comment right now,” said Chisveto.
Econet Zimbabwe Group spokesperson Fungai Mandivei also said he will forward questions to the commercial directors and will be able to comment after their comprehensive research. “I have forwarded the questions to the directors. I will give you a comment after their response,” said Mandivei.
If Starlink partner with a Zimbabwean company, it is likely to be cheap because subscribers will not pay for the shipping of the equipment. Zimbabweans will pay a $99 deposit to gain priority access to Starlink.
“The best guidance we can give is to install your Starlink at the highest elevation possible where it is safe to do so, with a clear view of the sky… users who live in areas with lots of tall trees, and buildings, may not be good candidates for early use of Starlink.
“Adverse weather conditions – including heavy rain and wind, however, can also impact internet connectivity potentially, leading to slower speeds or a rare outage.
Internet receivers need a clear view, unobstructed by buildings and tall trees. Objects and structures which disrupt the receivers’ ability to “see” the Starlink satellite will result in diminished connectivity,” explains the satellite internet provider’s website.
Starlink provided Ukraine with internet coverage that is absolutely crucial for the defence of its country following a Russian attempt to jam its previous communication system.
Starlink uses a constellation of satellites to beam high-speed broadband internet down to receivers. SpaceX started development on the Starlink satellite internet constellation in 2015.
Prototypes were first launched into Earth’s orbit in 2018, with a further 60 operational satellites deployed the following year. By mid-April 2021, SpaceX had launched more than 1,400 small satellites to an altitude of 550 km.