Ahead of Starlink’s anticipated launch in Zimbabwe, the country’s authorities have alerted users and distributors that they might violate the law if they operate without the necessary licenses.
Zimbabwe’s overseeing body for communications, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), has sounded the alarm about the unauthorized utilization of Starlink services. For Starlink to be operational in Zimbabwe, it must first obtain a direct license from POTRAZ. Despite Starlink’s announcement of its intent to commence services in Zimbabwe in the third quarter of 2023, they haven’t yet acquired the needed license. POTRAZ also suggests that Starlink could collaborate with an established public network within the nation to offer its services or mandate its consumers to secure private network licenses.
POTRAZ expressed concerns over the rising instances of organizations falsely presenting themselves as licensed satellite service providers and distributing equipment for satellite-based internet services. The popularity of Starlink in this southern African country is evident, with individuals on social platforms posting images of Starlink’s router installations. The Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation, the nation’s primary broadcaster, has adopted the service.
POTRAZ further clarified that even if local distributors obtain the necessary local licenses, they can only offer satellite-based internet services if their virtual network operator (VNO) agreements with the service provider, in this instance, Starlink, receive approval.
Dr. G.K Machengete, the director-general of POTRAZ, emphasized in an official statement that possessing or operating telecommunication equipment without a valid license or POTRAZ’s authorization is a legal offense.
This move by Zimbabwe mirrors South Africa’s recent stringent measures concerning Starlink. Just two weeks prior, South Africa’s telecommunication authority prohibited the import, distribution, and use of Starlink services until the company, owned by Elon Musk, meets the necessary licensing criteria.