The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has reiterated that South African-born Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite company does not have a licence to operate in the country.
This, after reports emerged that the satellite internet service has started operating in the country. According to reports, the service can already be accessed locally using a global or regional roaming subscription.
They add that some local internet service providers are offering the service from neighbouring Mozambique.
Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite internet access coverage to over 60 countries.
It also aims for global mobile phone service after 2023. SpaceX started launching Starlink satellites in 2019.
Says the telecoms regulator in a brief statement: “ICASA 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 neighbouring countries.
“ICASA has indicated previously that Starlink does not hold any licence issued by the authority to provide electronic communications, electronic communications network or broadcasting services in South Africa.”
Starlink is already available in several African countries, including Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Malawi.
However, it is still unavailable in South Africa − Africa’s most advanced economy.
The Starlink coverage map shows the date for the service’s availability in the country is still “unknown”.
In a Government Gazette, ICASA says it recognises the importance of the provision of broadband services in South Africa.
“Access to broadband connectivity is of utmost importance and the authority’s mandate is to ensure all South Africans have access to a wide range of basic communication services at affordable prices,” says ICASA.
“Access to these services is fundamental to drive, among others, the following: economic growth, education, rural development and job creation, especially for the under-serviced areas in South Africa.”
The authority encourages any interested person who wishes to provide broadband services, within the borders of South Africa, to adhere to and follow the licensing requirements as set out in the legislative and regulatory framework, to ensure services are provided efficiently, fairly and in the best interest of stakeholders in the ICT sector, including consumers and licensees.
“The authority is, thus, available to provide any clarity regarding the relevant process to follow when applying for an individual electronic communications service or electronic communications network service licence.”
Opposition party the DA recently accused government of blocking Starlink from operating in the country, saying the state stipulates that “in order for Starlink to operate in South Africa, they require… individual IECS/IECNS applicants or licensees to have a minimum 30% equity ownership held by persons from historically disadvantaged groups”.
However, communications minister Mondli Gungubele slammed the claims, saying ICASA is the entity responsible for issuing licences, rather than his department.