Botswana bans Starlink two weeks after rejecting application

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February 12, 2024
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2 min read
Image of a satellite dish facing the sky
Image source: Freepik

The news:

  • The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has announced that the importation, use, and sale of Starlink kits or services is illegal in the country, and violators will face legal consequences. 
  • The telecom regulator stated that while it is still reviewing Starlink's application to operate, the Internet satellite, launched by SpaceX in 2018, has yet to be licenced in the Southern African country.  
  • Recall that on February 2, 2024, Botswana’s communication watchdog rejected an application by the internet satellite company to operate in the country ahead of a planned launch in quarter four (Q4) 2024 because the US company failed to meet all the requirements.

In an email, BOCRA stated that Starlink has not authorised any entity to import or resell its Internet kits in Botswana, and any entity that does so without permission will be committing an offence. However, the charges the regulator will be bringing against offenders remain unclear.

Some Starlink kit owners, who claimed to have purchased the Internet satellite devices for personal use, are reportedly stuck at the Kazungula border in Zambia, where they are prohibited from bringing them into Botswana. 

Reports indicate that owners are given two choices at the border: return the device to Zambia, where Starlink service has officially launched, or contact Botswana’s telco regulator for permission. So far, no request has been successful. 

Users can access the service by using the "roaming" option in other African countries where there is no licence for the importation and resale of the kits. All they have to do is buy the device in a country like Zambia or Mozambique, where it is already licenced.  

This apparent loophole has let Starlink resellers like Mozambique’s Starsat Africa and Nigeria’s TD Africa offer the import and delivery of Starlink kits across Africa, including countries where it has yet to be licenced. 

Per Starlink’s terms of use, importing into and reselling in a nation where the satellite service is yet to launch is not allowed. How the Internet satellite company plans to enforce this in defaulting locations is unknown. 

Meanwhile, last week, Starlink disconnected hundreds of customers in South Africa, where the service is prohibited, citing a violation of terms of use. 

The fate of users in other African countries that have also banned the services, including Ghana, Zimbabwe, and even Botswana, remains uncertain. 

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