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Botswana prohibits Starlink, imposes penalties for lawbreakers

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The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has warned the public against the importation, use and resale of SpaceX's satellite Internet service Starlink's devices in the country and has warned that those who ignore the ruling will be penalized.

Elon Musk's Starlink does not have a license in the country after its application was turned down on February 2, 2024.

At the time, the regulator said contrary to media reports, BOCRA has not rejected any satellite licensing applications.

"BOCRA informs the public that in line with good corporate governance practice coupled with the principle of confidentiality espoused in the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA Act, 2012 ), the Authority is not at liberty to discuss details of a license application with anyone else other than the applicant," Broadcasting and Corporate Communications Director Aaron Nyelesi said in a statement at the time.

BOCRA said there were issues regarding missing requirements with the application, which were identified and pointed out to SpaceX.

Furthermore, BOCRA said the satellite Internet service has not authorized any entity to import or resell the Starlink Internet kits in Botswana.

"Anyone doing so without authorization from Starlink would be committing an offence against Starlink," the regulator said.

However, it is not clear what penalties will be imposed on those who violate the regulator's directive.

According to Starlink's terms of use, importation into and reselling in a country where the service is yet to be launched is not allowed.

Tech Cabal is reporting that some owners of Starlink devices, who claim to be using them for personal use, were being barred from entering Botswana at the Zambian border.

Starlink facing African pitfalls

Starlink has been facing obstacles to expansion especially in some Southern African countries.

Recently it cut off hundreds of South African users over alleged trademark and copyright violations.

Starlink does not have a license in Botswana after its application was turned down on February 2, 2024.   (Source: Starlink's website)
Starlink does not have a license in Botswana after its application was turned down on February 2, 2024.
(Source: Starlink's website)

Despite guidelines by Starlink prohibiting unlicensed import and resale in countries where its service has not yet launched, resellers like Starsat Africa allow users to buy Starlink roaming packages available in licensed countries.

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 December 2023, Ghana's National Communications Authority (NCA) warned against the operation of Starlink, in the West African 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 warning that fines could be imposed.

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.

Even with expansion difficulties, Starlink has entered several African countries including Benin, Nigeria, Rwanda, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia.

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*Top image source: Image by wirestock on Freepik

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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