Starlink ushers high-speed internet in Zim: Experts Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services, Dr Tatenda Mavetera

Zvamaida Murwira

Senior Reporter

Zimbabwe is set to join a select group of African countries using high speed, low-cost broadband internet services, after Government at the weekend approved the licencing of global satellite-based internet service Starlink.

The licencing requirements are now being worked out.

The approval follows the Second Republic’s commitment to achieve a fully digitalised, upper middle income economy by 2030, which leaves no place and no one behind.

Information and communication technologies experts have said that Starlink will help significantly expand the country’s cyber space and digital economy, which has been largely a preserve for those in the urban areas with access to cable networks.

Starlink is currently officially offered in a few African nations, including Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya and Malawi.

The Government announced at the weekend that it had approved the licencing of Starlink by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz), which is set to boost the digital economy and bridge the digital divide.

Owned by South Africa-born American billionaire, Mr Elon Musk, Starlink is a satellite internet system using low-earth orbit satellites, which allow almost instantaneous connections and far lower power than the signal lags and higher power requirements of geostationary satellites.

“One of the strategic pillars that anchor the Second Republic’s developmental agenda under Vision 2030 is innovation, science and technology. 

“Prioritisation of the digital economy end the emerging importance of technology in our day to day activities requires Government to lead from the front in providing an environment where investment in technology is promoted,” said President Mnangagwa on his X handle.

“Starlink is a low earth orbit satellite operator wholly owned by global conglomerate Space X, led by prominent multibillionaire Elon Musk. 

“The entry by Starlink in the global telecommunication space in Zimbabwe is expected to result in the deployment of high speed, low cost LEO internet infrastructure throughout.”

In an interview yesterday, Information, Communication and Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister, Dr Tatenda Mavetera said Starlink would bring high speed internet among other virtues.

“High speed broadband coverage: we will have greater coverage and access. Existing and future sector operators can use Starlink services for cheaper backhauling access, especially in remote places that are currently difficult to service using fibre or cell towers,” she said.

Minister Mavetera said some of the economic benefits included increased e-commerce activity across value chains such as business to customer, Government to citizen, business to business and Government to business.

“There will be greater connectivity coverage at low cost. It is proven that an increase in internet access has a direct impact on a country’s gross domestic product. Our economy will grow as a result of greater internet coverage and access,” she said.

“Better service delivery by Government in schools and hospitals, as Government has an opportunity now to provide Internet coverage in remote places at a lower cost. Increase in digital transactions will result in a direct increase in tax revenue for the Government, which, in turn, will result in better service delivery.”

ICT expert, Mr Jacob Mutevedzi said Starlink would bring high speed internet to non-fibre users, while it is a wake-up call for other internet service providers, thus bringing competitiveness in that industry.

“Our people will be able to grow and succeed where they can make the greatest economic impact, namely, in their backyard. 

“Zimbabweans, their location notwithstanding, are finally able to access internet service despite absence of physical infrastructure traditionally set up by local internet servive providers, the absence of which has always been blamed for lack of service. Starlink is delivering modern commerce to the doorstep of every rural household, school and healthcare centre. There is no need to travel to urban areas, relocate to access e-commerce or various other online economic opportunities,” he said.

“Suddenly, what used to be the preserve of a few privileged town-dwellers is accessible to the common man. Considering that dominant industries, like mining and agriculture, are located in rural areas, the timing could not be more perfect. Starlink will definitely stimulate the much needed economic growth.”

He said local internet service providers had to compete or risk going under.

Economist, Mr Brains Muchemwa, said the resultant effect of Starlink entry onto the scene was that of lower tariffs.

“Starlink’s competitive prices will shake a sector that has been reaping huge oligopolistic profits, the resultant effect being long-term lower prices of data across the wider market spectrum. 

“Many remote rural service providers in health, education, tourism, among others that have had limited or no connectivity due to absence of service, will now be able to come online in a cost effective manner, bridging the huge gap that had shut them out of the internet for a long time. And considering the proliferation of solar energy in such remote areas, Starlink service fills the last remaining gap in ensuring seamless connectivity,” he said.

Kwekwe-based lawyer, Mr Valentine Mutatu, said the coming in of Starlink dovetailed with Government’s thrust of achieving Vision 2030.

“The thrust of the Government is on e-commerce. So the improvement in connectivity, together with the attendant reduction in costs, will benefit everyone. 

“From the point of the legal fraternity, I believe this will augment the Intergrated Electronic Case Management System that was introduced by the Government in 2022. 

“The major problem that the players were facing was internet connectivity. Starlink will obviously eliminate the challenge of connectivity and this will result in efficiency and effectiveness of the system,” he said.

Economic analyst, Dr Prosper Chitambara, said the development will see a decline in the cost of internet.

“It is a game changer. It will allow coverage in all areas, including rural areas and schools in helping children access quality education in the remote areas. 

“We are going to see a decline in the cost of internet in general, it will have immense economic benefits. It enhances consumer welfare and economic competitiveness,” he said.

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