Mavetera Hints On Licensing Starlink

president mnangagwa and ICT minister mavetera launching ICT policies

Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services minister Dr. Tatenda Mavetera has hinted on government licensing Starlink. According to an annonymous source, the issue pertaining government stance making a U-turn in licensing the Elon Musk owned entity, “is still confidential.”

When Dr Mavetera was quizzed on courting Starlink, the Minister said: “Can you wait a bit to do that story, call me tomorrow [today], there is something that I am just waiting for. Maybe by Wednesday [today], I will be able to comment.”

According to experts, government’s latest stance comes after a realisation that it was a fighting a losing battle amid an influx of Starlink gadgets into the country.

Only yesterday, former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation chief executive officer Adelaide Chikurungu was fired partly for allegedly acquiring a Starlink internet kit for the State broadcaster, among other litany of well proven charges including misappropriation of funds, as well as using funds for personal awards, unauthorized foreign trips on top of purchasing this unlicensed satellite internet service Starlink chargeas, despite the government’s position on its illegality.

Prior to that, ZBC used LiveView and Aviwest internet services for live streaming in rural areas where connectivity from local mobile network operators was non-existent.

Zimbabwe’s first broadcaster failed to honour its contractual obligations with LiveView and Aviwest Streamhub, which saw the broadcaster being cut off leaving authorities opting for Starlink as a stop gap measure.

Meanwhile, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) recently said that Starlink had not applied for an operating licence.

Minister Mavetera’s advances to engage Starlink comes inspite of an operation to arrest those using the service. Potraz made an example of many starlink users when on February 22, a Guruve-based Chinese mining company, San He, was fined US$$700 by a Bindura magistrate for using Starlink equipment in violation of provisions of the Postal and Telecommunications Act.

The National Prosecuting Authority of Zimbabwe (NPAZ), argued that San He’s unlawful use of Starlink equipment came to light on December 5, 2023 when the police received a report from Potraz.

Zimbabwe Republic Police visited the mine where they confiscated the Starlink router and antenna.

Not to be outdone in the fiasco, Zambezi Boutique Private Limited, a Victoria Falls-based company, was fined US$500 for unauthorised use of Starlink internet services.

NPAZ said, the company was found guilty by a Victoria Falls magistrate of violating the Postal and Telecommunications Act Chapter 12:05, which prohibits the “possession, control or operation of a radio station without a radio station license.”

Many African countries, including Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi have availed Starlink’s services.Many are running to Starlink because it offers faster speeds and lower latency in remote areas where satellite and cellular internet are the only options.Elon Musk’s service is way cheaper, uncapped and faster than services offered by local providers.

Ross Moyo

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