Late last year, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), warned the use of Starlink, Elon Musk’s satellite internet service, is illegal in South Africa due to yet-to-be-satisfied regulatory requirements.
The circulated declaration was meant to deter consumers from using the kits until the company garners local licensing.
Despite the telecoms regulator’s clampdown on the service, consumers in the country are increasingly buying kits imported from vendors in a neighboring market where they are legally bought and sold.
As it appears, South Africans’ use of the service has surged since Icasa’s stern warning.
ICASAsePUSH (ISP), which provides turnkey solutions via satellite to operators seeking to launch or upgrade their service, launched operations in Maputo in September 2023. Since then, the service has sold 1,463 Starlink kits (about 10 every day or 300 a month) to South Africans, per reporting from MyBroadband.
ISP claims it gets about 200 Starlink queries daily, received 606 orders during a Black Friday promotions, and is hopeful that with the current rate, it would be selling more than 600 kits monthly by the end of January 2024.
Also, StarSat Africa, a satellite internet solutions firm bridging the digital divide across Southern Africa and beyond, lays claim to well over 12,000 sign-ups and kits for the service as of November 2023. It is not yet clear how many kits StarSat has recorded to date.
When Icasa illegalized Starlink use in the market, IT Lec, a third-party seller based in Northern Cape, halted its activities. Reportedly, 3,000–4,000 customers migrated from the provider since the regulator’s move. Some have flocked to StarSat.
Starlink’s type approval by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is sufficient for countries like Mozambique to export the kits to other markets. However, the equipment is yet to be type-approved in South Africa.
Consumers, bothered by the country’s worst-ever power crisis, have turned to SpaceX’s low latency, high-speed service because it is not affected by load-shedding, reflecting on South Africans’ title as the world’s most aggressive internet users.