SpaceX has rolled out Starlink in Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) — making it the eighth African country to get official access to the popular satellite Internet technology.
This is confirmed by the official Starlink availability map, which now reflects the entirety of Eswatini as officially covered by Starlink.
Notably, this is the first time Starlink has been available at rand pricing, and this could indicate how much the service would cost when it eventually launches in South Africa.
In Eswatini, the residential service costs R950 per month, with a further R120 per month “regulatory fee”.
For regional roaming, the cost increases to R1,250 per month, while global roaming is R3,800 per month — with both prices excluding the R120 regulatory fee.
A residential-grade dish kit is R12,000, and shipping and handling will cost a further once-off R450.
For business users, the high-end hardware is R54,625 (with an additional shipping and handling charge of R1,000), and the priority connectivity pricing begins at R2,185 per month for 1TB of priority traffic.
Starlink in Africa
The launch in Eswatini follows Starlink’s entry into Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, and Benin in 2023.
According to Starlink’s coverage map, it is also scheduled to go live in Angola before the end of the year.
Furthermore, all of South Africa’s neighbours where Starlink hasn’t officially launched yet have estimated rollout dates sometime in 2024. This includes Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. South Africa’s ETA remains unknown.
Industry sources have told MyBroadband that onerous regulatory requirements caused SpaceX to de-prioritise Starlink’s launch in South Africa.
One of the issues for Starlink is that acquiring the necessary licences would require its local operation to be 30% owned by historically disadvantaged groups (HDG).
While Starlink could simply create a local subsidiary or partner with an existing company to meet these criteria, SpaceX prioritises countries that make regulatory approval easier.
It also didn’t help that there was regulatory uncertainty when SpaceX was considering which African countries to roll out in. Industry regulator Icasa proposed at the time that the equity ownership requirements be made even stricter, changing the HDG requirement to 30% black ownership.
Starlink roaming explosion in South Africa
Despite technically operating in South Africa illegally, at least 12,000 households and businesses use Starlink.
This is thanks to its regional roaming service, allowing it to be used anywhere on the continent.
South African customers then either import the kits or use ISPs that offer to import and manage the service on their behalf.
Northern Cape-based IT Lec is an example of an ISP that offered this service, but the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) ordered it to cease offering the service in August 2023.
This forced IT Lec to transfer all customers to a Mozambican operator called Starsat Africa (not to be confused with the satellite TV service StarSat).
Starsat Africa offers shipping and delivery to South Africa and 17 other African countries — but it takes an estimated waiting period of three months from paying a pre-order deposit to receiving the kit.
Pricing comparison in Africa
The table below compares the prices of Starlink’s residential equipment, shipping fees in the eight African countries where it is officially available, and the monthly fee with regional roaming.
|Starlink direct import costs breakdown
|Country of registration and origin
|Starlink Standard kit (excluding shipping to SA, importing taxes, and VAT)
|Shipping fee to origin address
(may vary based on specific location)
|Monthly fee with regional roaming
|CFA30,000 (R921.32) (without regional roaming)