Elon Musk’s Starlink is now available in another of South Africa’s neighbouring countries. This time, the service has been launched in Eswatini, the landlocked kingdom formerly known as Swaziland.
News of the launch of Starlink in Eswatini comes via the map on the company’s website, which is updated as launches – and expected launch timeframes – become available for each market.
Recently, another neighbouring country, Mozambique, also got official access to Starlink following approval by regulators.
Starlink, which is owned by SpaceX and which operates a network of low-Earth orbit satellites, is now available in a handful of African countries, namely Mozambique, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria.
South Africa is the only country in Southern Africa that doesn’t have a launch date, though speculation is growing that a launch in the country is likely sooner rather than later.
TechCentral reported earlier this month that there are signs that a launch may be in the works after communications regulator Icasa provided clues to that effect in a recent statement.
An Icasa notice published in the Government Gazette in late November focused on the “illegal provision of satellite internet services” but left telling clues about the SpaceX subsidiary’s intention to begin operating in the local market.
In the notice, Icasa confirmed that it has already granted approval for the licensing of three products needed to provide Starlink services in the local market. These “type approval” certificates were awarded to Paratus Telecommunications, Magic Space Dust and Data X Lab.
“It should be abundantly obvious that you cannot apply for type approvals for Starlink kit without Starlink’s explicit authority,” said Dominic Cull, regulatory advisor to the Internet Service Providers’ Association (Ispa) in a recent interview with the TechCentral Show (TCS).
“So, now we have a link to say that Starlink is interested in South Africa, to the extent that they have bothered to get their core equipment type approved,” Cull said. “They wouldn’t do that if they didn’t have an intention of entering the South African market.”
In the interview with TCS, Cull warned against making assumptions about why Starlink hasn’t yet been launched in South Africa. Dianne Kohler Barnard, the Democratic Alliance’s former spokeswoman on communications, blamed the ANC’s “archaic” legislation relating to black economic empowerment for Starlink’s alleged reluctance to do business in South Africa. But neither SpaceX nor Musk has ever formally said anything about the matter.
“We don’t know publicly what is going on. But we have politicians politicking, as they do, and seeking to score points. That put a lot of misinformation into the public sphere. We assumed in the public discourse that Starlink is refusing to enter the South African market because of that 30% historically disadvantaged individual equity ownership requirement by the government, without any confirmation from Starlink,” said Cull. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media