Starlink blocked from South Africa?

03 May 2023

The South African political party Democratic Alliance (DA) believes that Starlink’s entry into South Africa is blocked by the country’s telecommunications law.
The latter obliges Starlink to sell 30% of its capital to people from historically disadvantaged groups before obtaining the approval of the authorities to provide its high-speed internet services by satellite.

Starlink is currently pursuing its African expansion strategy as of 2021 as part of parent company SpaceX’s ambition to bring broadband everywhere on the planet, including the most remote and landlocked areas. The company has already commenced operations in Nigeria and Rwanda. According to the launch schedule, 21 other African countries should receive its services this year.

“If Starlink were available in South Africa, children in the most rural areas would have access to information and learning materials, and others could educate themselves without the constraints of universities or formal schools that millions of people simply cannot afford it,” said Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Dianne Kohler Barnard.
South African minister of communications and digital technologies, Mondli Gungubele, has denied claims that the country’s government is blocking Starlink.

“The department wishes to place it on record that in order to operate an electronic communications network such as satellite to offer a service in South Africa, an individual Electronic Communications Network Service (iECNS) license and an individual Electronic Communications Service (iECS) license that are used in conjunction with a Radio Frequency Spectrum license are a requirement,” said Gungubele. “These are obtainable on application from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).”

The minister said the custodian of the licensing process is ICASA and the regulator has said that no application has been made by Starlink. “It is therefore not true that the government is blocking the operation of Starlink in South Africa,” said Gungubele. “Any interested party wishing to apply for a license, including Starlink, may through appropriate channels, approach the Authority with its application and comply with the prevailing legislation in the country.”