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  • Starlink: The Heroic Solution to Zimbabwe's Internet Struggles

    Starlink: The Heroic Solution to Zimbabwe's Internet Struggles
  • Washington Mkombodzi
  • Staff Writer
  • Posted Mar 03, 2024
  • As a Zimbabwean, I have personally experienced the frustrations of dealing with poor internet service, limited coverage in certain areas, and exorbitant costs. The lack of competition among service providers has meant little incentive for improvement. Because of this Starlink has become one of the hottest topics in our country. In Zimbabwe, we primarily rely on four main internet service providers: Econet, Liquid, TelOne, and NetOne. Econet and TelOne offer mobile internet services, which are not only unstable but also expensive. The speeds fluctuate so much that you can never be certain of having a reliable connection. Liquid and TelOne offer fiber and LTE connections, respectively. While fiber offers consistent high speeds, it is only available in low-density areas, leaving the majority of Zimbabweans in high-density areas without access.

    Enter Starlink, a potential solution to all the internet issues we face. Starlink offers super-fast internet speeds of up to 200Mbps, something we could only dream of with our current service providers. Let me explain what Starlink is. It is the brainchild of billionaire Elon Musk, running under his company SpaceX. Musk started Starlink as a means to generate additional revenue to fund his ambitious space projects. His ultimate goal is to provide fast internet access to every corner of the globe, regardless of location or country.

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    Starlink utilizes a constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide high-speed internet services. Instead of relying on fiber or traditional base stations, Starlink beams internet connectivity directly from space to the ground. This unique approach allows for global accessibility. To access Starlink, you need to purchase a Starlink receiver, which costs between $500 and $700 in Southern Africa. The technology is similar to that of DSTV, a popular satellite TV service in Zimbabwe. Just like with DSTV, you need a satellite receiver (dish). The Starlink receiver/dish is small and self-adjusts to find the nearest satellite. No special technicians or installers are required. It also comes with a Wi-Fi router to share the internet. The router supports up to 128 devices/users. Starlink even provides an app to guide you through the setup process and monitor your internet performance. It's one of the most user-friendly internet systems available.

    In terms of cost in Southern Africa, Starlink offers unlimited internet for a monthly subscription fee of $50. While the initial purchase cost of the receiver may seem expensive, the speeds and peace of mind it provides make it well worth the investment. In comparison, Liquid's unlimited fiber package costs $200 per month for average speeds of 20Mbps for home use, and business package with speeds of 30Mbps costs $600. By sacrificing the initial cost of a Starlink receiver, users can enjoy significant savings in the long run. Additionally, if you have cooperative neighbors, you can share a single Starlink unit among multiple households. The speeds can comfortably accommodate more than 20 users, and with Wi-Fi extenders, 10 houses in a high-density area can benefit from a single unit, further reducing costs for everyone involved.

    One of Starlink's greatest advantages over other internet services in Zimbabwe is its ability to be used anywhere without the need for complicated installations. Simply connect it to electricity, and you have an internet connection. This is particularly beneficial for rural schools, farmers, mining companies, tourism, and remote government offices. When I visit my rural area, I can easily take my Starlink receiver with me. It is highly portable, and its low power consumption allows for easy connection to solar power sources. With Starlink, no area in Zimbabwe will be left without affordable internet access.

    The potential of Starlink in Zimbabwe's internet landscape is immense. It has the power to transform lives and contribute to economic growth. In my next article, I will explore how Starlink can benefit the economy and empower citizens. However, it's important to note that the Zimbabwean government has stated that Starlink has not yet applied for a license in the country. Currently, using Starlink in Zimbabwe is illegal, and those found with it can face legal consequences. Recently, a Chinese mining company was fined $700 for using Starlink. Therefore, it is advisable for Zimbabweans who are interested in using Starlink to wait for the official launch of the service in the country and follow the proper legal procedures.

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