SpaceX’s Starlink is now officially available in Mozambique, the first of South Africa’s neighbours to start supporting the service.
The Starlink website allows residents of the country to order their kit and have it shipped to their address for delivery starting around the second half of June 2023.
Customers must pay MZN40,492 (R14,765) for the Starlink kit and MZN3,000 (R903.13) for the monthly subscription fee.
However, Starlink cautions that its service in Mozambique relies solely on inter-satellite links, which means the country does not yet have a ground station for Internet fallback.
As a result, users should expect brief periods of intermittent service and high latency.
Services like streaming, browsing, online shopping, and emails should not be a problem, but the service will not be ideal for latency-sensitive applications like online multiplayer gaming or video conferencing.
Customers can test Starlink on a 30-day trial and have the kit shipped back for a refund if they are unhappy with their experience.
Although Starlink is not officially available in South Africa yet, it works through its optional roaming services.
In our case, that was when the dish had much less open sky to work with than Starlink recommended.
Naturally, because there are no ground stations in South Africa, high latency was a problem.
However, the Starlink ping was still much better than older and more established geosynchronous satellite providers.
The primary challenge that South Africans will encounter is getting the kit into the country in the first place.
Starlink can only be shipped to addresses in countries where the service enjoys official support.
One Internet service provider in the Northern Cape — IT LEC — imports and manages Starlink on behalf of its customers.
The company told MyBroadband it was migrating its rural customers that only had access to fixed mobile broadband to the service, as load-shedding was constantly leaving them without connectivity.
South Africans who can have the Starlink kit delivered to an address in Mozambique, bring it into South Africa, and pay the global roaming fee, will be able to use the service locally.
Because Mozambique is on the same continent as South Africa, the regional roaming fee applies, totalling MZN3,645 (R1,096).
However, the roaming service’s terms and conditions stipulate that it can only work for two months at a time. After this period, the service has to be used at its home address again.
Using an ISP like IT LEC will ensure that your roaming service remains activated, as it works directly with Starlink partners.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa says SpaceX has yet to apply for the necessary telecoms licences to operate as an ISP in South Africa.
Any ISPs in South Africa must have 30% ownership held by previously disadvantaged groups, including black people, women, and the youth.
According to industry sources with knowledge of the issue, this has been a sticking point for SpaceX, which is a private company that does not disclose the demographic makeup of its owners.
Mining Weekly recently reported that Starlink enterprise sales director Phillip van Essen shed some light on the lack of a set availability date for South Africa during the Dwyka Tech Carnival in May 2023.
“We prioritise the countries that make it easy for us to do business there, open entities, and get regulatory approvals,” Van Essen said.
“We respect that every country has their own process…and have a dedicated team that is focused on regulatory efforts globally, including South Africa.”
“We’re hopeful that we can resolve the issues and start service here soon, and in other [African countries].”
The Starlink coverage map shows that Botswana is next in line to get the service, with an estimated arrival date in the third quarter of 2023.
Eswatini, Namibia, and Zimbabwe are scheduled to go live with Starlink in the fourth quarter of 2023. Lesotho is the only neighbouring country where Starlink is yet to get the green light.