Business and Technology

Govt fines Chinese mining company for using Starlink

A Chinese mining business was fined US$700 for utilizing the Starlink internet service, which Zimbabwe has yet to licence.

Authorities also confiscated the Starlink router and antenna.

The National Prosecuting Authority announced on Thursday that San He Mining Company had paid the fine at the Bindura Magistrates Court for “wilfully possessing and or operating a radio station without a licence or authorisation from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (PRAZ).”

Also Read: Two arrested for using Starlink in Zimbabwe as crackdown intensifies

Prosecutors claimed PRAZ informed police on December 5 of last year that the firm was using high-speed satellite-based internet from Starlink, which is owned by Elon Musk.

Zimbabwe’s Information Communication Technology minister Tatenda Mavetera has confirmed that Starlink has applied to roll out its internet service in Zimbabwe, but POTRAZ is yet to issue the necessary approvals.

In the interim, POTRAZ has warned that it will clamp down on people using Starlink which has been licenced in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in the region.

Tests conducted by technology blog TechZim last year showed Starlink broadband had download speeds of 130 Mbps in Harare, compared to the average 20 Mbps offered by state company TelOne.

Meanwhile, analysts are urging government to speedily license Atrlink as this has a positive impact on the economy. Sharing his opinion on X, Kudzai Mutisi said;

STARLINK: Pragmatism in unlocking opportunities

There is a simple reason why rural areas all over the world tend to have poor mobile network coverage: It’s simply unprofitable for mobile network companies to build & operate base stations. In Zimbabwe, the govt through @Potraz_zw  funds the construction of base stations in sparsely populated areas where private capital ain’t keen. It’s a good model but it will take a long time to cover every square inch of the country. This is where satellite internet service providers like STARLINK come in! STARLINK signals are EVERYWHERE in Zimbabwe. This means ANYONE with a @Starlink device can connect 100 devices to affordable, reliable, high speed internet anywhere in Zimbabwe. This is empowering at an imaginable scale! Zimbabwe is a great tourism destination. Most of the tourism destinations & mines in Zimbabwe are in remote areas with no mobile network coverage. This is disadvantageous especially for those tourists who are content creators or those who wanna work remotely while on holiday. Starlink devices will be a GAMECHANGER for resorts in remote areas. It will increase their offerings. It will also improve the operations of mining companies and the comfort of their employees. Is STARLINK a threat to local network companies? Indeed Starlink will bring MUCH NEEDED competition to local network companies. Zimbabweans are paying exorbitant prices for data because the market is OLIGOPOLISTIC. The damage to the economy are enormous: Zimbabweans are missing out on the digital revolution! That said, Starlink won’t push the local network companies out of business for several reasons: 1. Starlink devices are still pricey, only a small section of the market will afford them. 2. The Starlink subscription payment modalities are still out of reach for many. 3. With an affordable fibre or 5G connection, the need for Starlink is eliminated. Just like the Satellite TV revolution of the early 2000s, the govt won’t be able to stop the adoption of Starlink in Zimbabwe. However, just like the Satellite TV revolution, the Starlink invasion will only cater for a small section of the market and won’t take over the whole market. What should govt do? This is an opportunity for govt to play hardball against network companies. Govt can still ban/restrict the use of Starlink in urban areas if network companies agree to significantly reduce their charges in urban areas. Moreover, network companies may also be licensed to distribute Starlink devices. In addition, network companies can be allowed make arrangements with Starlink to use their services in certain areas. For the govt, it is essential to protect the local companies without prejudicing the citizens and the economy. Starlink was licensed in Mozambique and Zambia, but that didn’t collapse the existing network companies. Conclusion It is almost impossible to stop technological revolutions. Those countries that manage to stop the technological revolution also end up stopping their own progress. They are left behind while others progress. It is therefore wise to be pragmatic and adapt to the new reality. The fact that there is demand for Starlink says a lot about the failures of the existing network companies. In many countries, Starlink demand only exists in remote areas!

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