Illegal Starlink users in Zimbabwe devise ways to hide kits despite ban

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April 9, 2024
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2 min read
starlink dish

The news: 

  • Reports indicate that individuals in Zimbabwe are devising new means to continue using Starlink despite an ongoing ban in the country. 
  • Zimbabweans are reportedly disguising satellite Internet kits as everyday items, such as outdoor lighting or solar panels, to avoid prosecution by the country's authorities. 

As the Southern African country continues to struggle with high internet costs and limited options, Zimbabweans are increasingly turning to cheaper alternatives, such as a US-based satellite Internet service provider, although illegal. 

One such individual told a local news outlet that he spent his time assisting other Starlink users in hiding their kits in plain sight from authorities. After modifications, the Starlink terminal resembles a solar panel or light. They can also design it to work without the traditional indoor router. 

They opened the Starlink Gen 2 terminal and modified it to run on 12 volts DC. The unit is then designed to fit inside a solar panel, street light, or another device. The result is a refurbished kit that does not require a cable or router to operate. 

While this modified Starlink seems to be enjoying a high acceptance level in the market, the users and technicians still have to worry about the regulatory ramifications of their actions. 

It’s unclear if the authorities are oblivious to this new tactic or are waiting for the right time to respond. 

The Starlink issue has been ongoing in Zimbabwe for several months now. As of the time of writing this, Starlink, tagged as an unlicensed telecommunications company in Zimbabwe, remains banned in the country as it still hasn’t been approved by POTRAZ. 

Recall that in January 2024, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), the nation’s telecom regulator, advised the public that it would arrest individuals and businesses it found using, distributing, or advertising Starlink Internet services’ equipment.

POTRAZ also announced that, in partnership with the police, its officials would begin a country-wide raid to identify and potentially prosecute all defaulters. There have been at least two arrests. 

However, this hasn’t stopped individuals and businesses in the country from illegally using Starlink. Zimbabwe isn’t the only country where the satellite Internet service is banned. In December 2023, Ghana, through its telecom regulator, the National Communication Authority (NAC), also prohibited the sales, service, and use of Starlink in the country as illegal. Similarly, Botswana has also prohibited Starlink.

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