Starlink is cool — but there are better options for South Africa

Elon Musk’s Starlink is not the satellite Internet platform best suited for industry and user needs in South Africa, or the African continent as a whole.

This is according to Dawie de Wet, the group CEO of Q-KON and chief engineer for Twoobii, a South African satellite broadband service.

“While the news on the low-earth orbit developments such as Starlink tends to draw the media’s attention, there are fundamental changes happening in the development of current and future geostationary fleets such as the Intelsat EPIC constellation,” said De Wet.

“In this space, we will shortly see software-defined satellites and satellites with 1Tbps capacity.”

De Wet said that the awareness being generated by Starlink for satellite Internet is purely part of the global SpaceX success story.

“The planned satellite launches for the next decade will be 332% more than the past decade — this is just one metric indicating the huge technological and industry developments that are happening and being planned,” he stated.

According to De Wet, the hype being generated by Starlink, OneWeb, and Project Kuiper is important for all satellite service providers.

“It creates customer awareness and increases the general discussion about satellite broadband — we need much, much more of it.”

He said these services are already being evaluated in the market, and availability is expected from 2022 to 2023.

Q-Kon CEO Dawie de Wet
Dawie de Wet, Q-Kon CEO

Questioned about the regulatory hurdles international platform operators face, De Wet acknowledged that it is a big debate.

Aside from the usual spectrum and operating licences, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) published new regulations this year that requires network operators to be 30% black-owned.

De Wet said that in some cases, there are effectively no regulatory hurdles for satellite broadband operators to overcome, whereas, in other scenarios, a complicated process awaits.

“It all depends on the position of these global players and how they choose to engage with the South African market,” he said.

“We maintain that should you want to enter the South African market—or any other market—your first position should be to respect the current regulatory framework and work with it”.

As a specialised service provider focussing on satellite technology, De Wet said that Q-KON is well-positioned to lead or facilitate market entry and go-to-market models for global network operators.

“Given the specific metrics of the market for satellite services, the benefit to really understand the different dynamics, as well as access to strong technical competency, can be a great boost for satellite network operators wanting to enter the market.”

Now read: Apple to add satellite features to iPhones

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Starlink is cool — but there are better options for South Africa