“Illegal” Starlink a game-changer for South African farms, fishermen, rural schools, and cancer screeners

SpaceX’s Starlink satellite Internet service has been a game-changer for many people and businesses in rural South Africa.

While the service is not officially supported locally and has been deemed illegal due to not having the required telecoms and spectrum licences, thousands of South Africans have been using its roaming service since early 2023.

MyBroadband has heard numerous first-hand accounts of how much faster and more reliable the service is compared to older and more expensive satellite services.

In many cases, it has even been preferred over fixed LTE as it is not susceptible to load-shedding.

We have also tested Starlink connectivity around the country, often measuring download speeds well over 100Mbps and upload speeds of about 20Mbps.

MyBroadband recently spoke to IcasaSePush, one of several companies that import Starlink kits on South African users’ behalf, to learn more about the impact of the product on its customers.

A better education from anywhere

IcasaSePush said Starlink had saved many rural residents thousands of rand per month while offering better Internet than any other provider.

“Numerous small businesses are online for the first time, thriving due to their expanded exposure,” IcasaSePush said.

The company listed several examples of how Starlink improved Internet connectivity in rural areas, including schools, farms, and charities.

IcasaSePush has sponsored schools with Starlink kits in areas where children had no other Internet access.

“Where children previously relied on postal education or travelled up to 200km daily to school, Starlink has enabled online schooling,” the company explained.

“This shift has broadened their learning frameworks, allowing access to diverse teaching styles and explanations beyond what their parents could provide.”

“Now, they can conduct research at school and learn from new perspectives, especially in subjects their teachers might need more expertise.”

IcasaSePush also provided PinkDrive with a Starlink kit, allowing the charity organisation to offer improved mobile cancer screenings in remote areas.

Where the charity organisation previously had to travel back to areas with cell signal to send X-rays to doctors for analysis, it can now instantly send images for diagnoses and provide patients with quick results.

PinkDrive’s mobile mammography unit, used to screen women in rural areas for breast cancer

On farms, Starlink has helped for personal, operational, and security use.

One of IcaseSePush’s customers in Limpopo has a farm with rhinos and other wildlife.

This farmer had no proper Internet solution for his surveillance cameras until he installed a Starlink.

“His home and all farm stores are now secure, and he can manage security from anywhere,” IcasaSePush said. “We are also exploring a project to monitor the endangered bearded vulture.”

Other Starlink customers on farms include an elderly couple in a remote KwaZulu-Natal location who previously had no way to communicate with emergency services or their family.

“Similarly, a family farm in the Karoo now enjoys daily communication, whereas previously, a family member had to drive into town every other day to confirm their well-being,” IcasaSePush said.

There has also been a significant impact on the fishing community.

“Fishermen who venture offshore previously had no cost-effective or reliable way to communicate with their loved ones,” IcasaSePush said.

“With Starlink, they now enjoy daily video calls and the reassurance that they can communicate in emergencies or even watch a sports match on the open ocean.”

Live broadcasting and remote working boost

IcaseSePush also sponsors a broadcaster who relies on Starlink for live broadcasting from remote areas.

“No other solution meets the remote location needs or bandwidth requirements necessary for their operations,” the company said.

“Starlink has revolutionised broadcasting, enabling live broadcasts from the most remote locations, even during load-shedding.”

The company also said Starlink has made it possible for many more people to work from anywhere.

“This includes residents of the Western Cape who remotely work for companies in the UK and wanderers who choose to work from the bush, beach, or any other unique location each week,” the company said.

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“Illegal” Starlink a game-changer for South African farms, fishermen, rural schools, and cancer screeners