Starlink Suspends Roaming in Zimbabwe As Illegal Use Surges

Starlink will stop roaming access in Zimbabwe following instructions from the country’s regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ).

“You are currently using Starlink in an unauthorised territory. As a result, Starlink has been directed by [POTRAZ] to disable your service,” read an email by Starlink to customers. In September last year, POTRAZ confirmed that it had received an operating license application from Starlink and that the vetting process is ongoing. Starlink’s map shows that it plans to launch in Zimbabwe in Q3 2024.

The roaming option allows the use of the service even in countries where it is not licensed yet. This is provided that the user has legally bought the device in a country where Starlink has been licensed. The usage of Starlink has surged over the last year in Zimbabwe, with some users taking measures such as concealing their devices from authorities. 

However, despite the interest from locals, Zimbabwean legislators have pushed back on granting Starlink a license. In October last year, member of parliament Supa Mandiwanzira suggested that the European Union’s investigation of X for misinformation should be factored in the vetting process for Starlink’s operation licence application in Zimbabwe. A month earlier in September, POTRAZ issued a warning to Starlink resellers and users in the country for breaking the law by selling and using an unlicensed service and threatened legal repercussions.

Zimbabwe’s neighbours such as Zambia and Mozambique, have licensed the service. This has led to a boost in the reselling of Starlink devices which have been sourced and registered in those countries.

The latest move by Zimbabwean authorities continues the regulatory pushback against Starlink by southern African legislators. In South Africa, the use and reselling of the service has been banned by the communication regulator ICASA. In Botswana, the regulator BOCRA also warned against the importation, resale and use of the service. Starlink has applied for an operating license in both countries.

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