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  • Starlink Terminals Still Operational Despite Earlier Closure Announcement

    Starlink Terminals Still Operational Despite Earlier Closure Announcement
  • Washington Mkombodzi
  • Staff Writer
  • Posted May 16, 2024
  • In April, Starlink issued emails warning that it would be shutting down terminals in countries where it is not licensed to offer service, including Zimbabwe. This move aimed to curb users taking advantage of Starlink's roaming feature for use outside officially available areas.

    Starlink had stated that its regional and global roaming plans were intended for temporary travel and transit, not for permanent use in locations outside officially-available areas. Customers with roaming plans used for more than two months outside of the country where they ordered the service were instructed to either change their account country or return the terminal to the country of purchase.

    An email was also sent to Zimbabwean users, indicating that Starlink had been requested by the country's telecom regulator, POTRAZ, to shut down all Starlink terminals operating in Zimbabwe.

    However, we are now in mid-May, Starlink terminals in unlicensed countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa continue to function, alleviating concerns among users in these regions. The April 30th deadline set by Starlink has passed, and investigations have shown that the terminals remain operational.

    Sudan is another country that could have been affected by Starlink’s policy change. Amid ongoing conflict and an internet blackout, Starlink has provided crucial internet access. Humanitarian organizations, including the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children, have appealed to Starlink in an open letter to maintain its operations in Sudan. They emphasized the service's importance in delivering life-saving assistance to millions of people. Notably, Elon Musk has previously shown support for maintaining internet services in conflict zones, such as aiding Ukrainians during the war against Russia. Starlink has yet to respond to this plea.

    The reasons behind the continued operation of Starlink terminals in unlicensed countries remain unclear. Starlink has not issued any official communication regarding this matter. One theory is that Starlink has delayed the roaming switch-off by a month, while another suggests that the two-month cutoff policy for roaming use only began on April 30, 2024. 

    Shutting down terminals in unlicensed regions could result in significant revenue losses for Starlink. It is estimated that there are over 5,000 Starlink users in Zimbabwe and South Africa alone. This potential financial impact might be a factor in the company’s decision-making process.

    While the future of Starlink services in unlicensed countries remains uncertain, the continued operation of terminals in Zimbabwe and other regions provides some relief to users. The situation highlights the complex interplay between regulatory compliance, humanitarian needs, and financial considerations. For now, Starlink users in these regions can continue to access the internet, but the long-term prospects of their connectivity remain to be seen.

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