After the revelation that United States billionaire Elon Musk's STARLINK has submitted an application for a license to operate and provide its satellite-based internet services in Zimbabwe, it is crucial that we thoroughly assess the viability of this venture in the country.
The introduction of STARLINK's internet services has the potential to revolutionize Zimbabwe's digital landscape, offering reliable internet access through its Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to our remote areas that have traditionally been underserved or lacking in infrastructure.
You may be wondering why Starlink has been making the buzz since it was reviewed they had applied for a licence and that's because of its potential to provide internet access to regions where laying fiber optic cables or building traditional infrastructure is challenging or cost-prohibitive. Hence this makes it particularly promising for the country with our large rural populations which is lagging behind as far as internet connectivity is concerned.
Starlink has rolled out services in over seven African countries and is still waiting to undergo regulatory approvals in many other countries, Zimbabwe included.
However, several key factors need to be considered to ensure viability of this initiative. One primary aspect to evaluate is the affordability of STARLINK's services for the local population, as accessibility to affordable internet remains a significant challenge in Zimbabwe.
One thing that we are sure about is that Starlink will not solve our affordable internet access problem as the technology is not cheap , perpetuated by the current regulations in the country regarding the use of satellite technology.
Under the regulations of Zimbabweas telecommunications regulation authority POTRAZ, both the service provider and it's end user are required to apply for a licence to provide and utilise the service respectively. The rule to licence end users alone is a huge impediment to accessing the service and suggest that the body sit down and think about it again.
As I mentioned earlier, it's important to note that the technology is quite expensive. In Nigeria, the Starlink kit, which includes the dish and router, cost around US$600, in addition to a monthly subscription fee of approximately US$43 and licence fee.
Therefore, it is safe to say that a significant number of rural folks may not have the means to afford the service, even though they are the intended target market. Given these limitations, it becomes crucial for the government and non-governmental organizations to collaborate and invest in the technology in efforts to bridge the digital divide that exists between urban areas and remote locations within the country.