Business and Technology

Government considering China’s G60 Starlink over Elon Musk’s Starlink

The Zimbabwean government is considering other internet service providers in addition to SpaceX’s Starlink. Other internet service providers, such as China’s G60 Starlink, are also being considered for prospective operations in the country.

There has been an increase in calls for Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) to authorize Starlink’s activities in the country, particularly in 2023.

Supporters of this initiative believe that Zimbabwe’s internet service providers provide pricey bundles with slow internet connections.

The government has responded by stating that Starlink had not formally applied for authorisation to operate in Zimbabwe. Later, Information Minister Jenfan Muswere said Starlink had applied for authorisation but no more update was given. Meanwhile, neighbouring countries like Zambia have already authorized Starlink, leading some Zimbabweans to create accounts in those neighbouring countries to access Starlink services.

Amid these calls for Starlink’s authorisation, George Charamba, the Presidential Spokesperson, has mentioned that Starlink is not the only contender being considered. When responding to a similar request regarding the authorisation of Starlink, Charamba stated that decisions have already been made regarding services like Starlink. Charamba added:

The Chinese are about to, or have already launched a similar service.

He added that the alleged failures of Econet shouldn’t be the basis of Zimbabwe’s public policy on data, just as the weaknesses of its competitors shouldn’t be either. Charamba said public policy is determined by considerations of “sovereignty, state security, and the breaking of monopolies and oligopolies” in providing public services. Zimbabwe and China have ties dating back to the colonial era when the Asian country trained the former’s freedom fighters.

Charamba added that while it’s true that affordable data is important for the economy, it doesn’t mean it’s directly tied to any one company, even if they claim to be promoting liberalisation of the data market.

China is developing its own satellite mega constellation called G60 Starlink to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink. G60 Starlink aims to have over 12,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, similar to China’s National Network project, which consists of approximately 13,000 satellites. Construction of the National Network is currently underway, overseen by the state-owned company Guo Wang.

In December 2023, the first satellite for G60 Starlink was produced in Shanghai. The plan is to launch 108 satellites in 2024 out of a total of 12,000. The project is managed by Shanghai Gesi Aerospace Technology, and funding has been raised through the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai government investment vehicles.

The G60 Starlink project envisions 36 polar orbital planes, each with 36 satellites, providing broadband access services globally. China is investing in this project to rival SpaceX’s Starlink, which has already deployed thousands of satellites and acquired millions of active customers.

China’s interest in developing its satellite mega-constellations is driven by concerns about potential surveillance from foreign companies like SpaceX and the desire to have strategic advantages in outer space.

Back to top button