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Starlink cuts off users in South Africa

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SpaceX's satellite Internet service, Starlink, has cut off hundreds of South African users over alleged trademark and copyright violations.

According to MyBroadband, several Starlink users who use StarSat Africa to manage their accounts complained that they were offline.

Furthermore, it reported that Starlink said resellers are violating its terms of use, and its copyrights by using the Starlink logo for their marketing and ordered them to cease all unauthorized resales immediately.

StarSat Africa sent out communication through its Facebook page promising a full statement soon, but said less than 10% of its clients have been affected.

Even though Starlink is not licensed in South Africa, its roaming services still work in the country. Customers use the service via resellers like StarSat that buy Starlink roaming packages available in licensed countries. The reseller then registers the services in those countries and manages subscriptions for users in South Africa.

Starlink not allowed in South Africa

Starlink's services are technically illegal in South Africa because it does not have a license to operate in the country.

In November 2023, The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) cautioned companies against importing and selling Starlink satellite Internet terminals in South Africa, calling the practice illegal and warned that fines could be imposed.

Starlink said SA resellers are violating its terms of use, and its copyrights by using the Starlink logo for their marketing and ordered them to cease all unauthorized resales immediately.   (Source: Starlink's website.)
Starlink said SA resellers are violating its terms of use, and its copyrights by using the Starlink logo for their marketing and ordered them to cease all unauthorized resales immediately.
(Source: Starlink's website.)

ICASA said that any person who provides a service without a license "is guilty of an offence" and liable to a fine of up to R5 million (US$263,100) or 10% of the person or licensee's annual turnover for every day or part thereof during which the offence continued.

Starlink faces backlash in Africa

South Africa is not the only country that has clamped down on the use of Starlink on the continent.

In December 2023, Ghana's National Communications Authority (NCA) warned against the operation of Starlink in the West African country.

Just last month, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), warned that those distributing and advertising equipment to access Starlink Internet services would face jail time.

In April 2023, South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Mondli Gungubele denied claims that the government was blocking the operation of Starlink, which is the brainchild of South African-born Elon Musk.

However, there have been other countries on the continent that have opposed SpaceX's Starlink. In August 2023, Senegal banned the sale of Starlink kits and five people were arrested for this offense, facing up to five years in jail and a US$100,000 fine.

Starlink's expanding African footprint

Even though there has been some opposition to Starlink's operations, there are other African countries that have already launched Starlink's satellite Internet service. In November Benin became the seventh country in Africa to go live with Starlink services.

Follow Connecting Africa on our new X account @connect__africa to get the latest telecoms and tech news across Africa.

Benin's launch followed launches in Nigeria, Rwanda, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.

Starlink's connectivity map shows plans for launches in many African countries in 2024.

Related posts:

*Top image source: Starlink's website.

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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