- ICASA has said, once again, that Starlink doesn’t have a licence to operate in South Africa.
- Despite this ICASA has noted the the alleged provision of satellite internet services through Starlink terminals in South Africa.
- The Authority notes that unauthorised equipment could interfere with other connectivity equipment.
Despite being around for many years at this point, Elon Musk’s Starlink has put satellite-based connectivity in the hands of consumers rather than solely businesses that have traditionally leveraged the technology.
Unfortunately, Starlink isn’t officially available in South Africa. The keyword there being officially.
A company based in Mozambique calling itself ICASAsePush claims that it can provide “Starlink” connectivity to South Africans but before you head to the website we need to provide a warning.
ICASAsePush can’t even say the name StarLink because as it notes, it’s not an Authorised Starlink reseller. “We have agreements with a network of Authorised African resellers and act as a business scaler for them. Depending on location, stock, response time and other factors, we find our [sic] the best match between customers & the resellers,” the proprietors claim.
Essentially, the company sells buyers a pre-configured system which you can manage but have little support for, especially when it comes to installation. The kit costs R14 999 and you also need to pay R2 999 for Setup, a R900 monthly subscription and R1 739 for an ethernet adaptor. Beyond that, the business says that the service is “Best for residential users and everyday internet applications like streaming, video calls, online gaming & more” but then says of gaming “the current ping rates offered by roaming subscriptions are far from ideal for gaming”. We’re not exactly rushing to hand our money over to this company if we’re honest.
Beyond that, StarLink doesn’t have a licence to operate in South Africa and that comes with a set of problems as highlighted by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).
“The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has noted recent developments on the alleged provision of satellite internet services through Starlink terminals in South Africa, and of some entities distributing Starlink products in South Africa from within the country and from the neighbouring countries. The Authority has indicated previously, through numerous media engagements, that Starlink does not hold any licence issued by the Authority to provide electronic communications, electronic communications network or broadcasting services in South Africa,” ICASA wrote in a general notice.
The Authority goes on to outline how an entity should apply for a licence to operate. ICASA also notes that those who don’t have a licence to provide electronic communications, electronic communications network or broadcasting services “is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding the greater of R5 000 000 or 10% of the person or licensee’s annual turnover for every day or part thereof during which the offence continued.”
Furthermore, unapproved equipment could interfere with the other equipment or not even work at all, considering Starlink doesn’t even officially cover South Africa, the latter is a real possibility. ICASA also notes that unapproved equipment could “potentially explode or implode thus putting consumers in harm’s way.”
ICASA concludes its notice by stating, “the Authority welcomes the advent of technologies that will contribute to ensuring universal service and access to all South Africans and assist in bridging the digital divide. However, this must be done within the country’s regulatory framework as set out in the ECA[Electronic Communications Act].”
And on that, we agree with ICASA. Local companies spend millions to make use of what little radio frequency spectrum there is in South Africa and the fact a company based in another country can undermine that is incredibly unfair to existing and future businesses that obey the laws of South Africa.
It’s clear that ICASA is gearing up to take the fight to businesses such as ICASAsePush and we have to wonder how long those operating outside the realms of the authorisation will survive.