Starlink Satellite Internet Service Now Available In South Africa

Two South Africans, according to information obtained by MyBroadband, were able to access the Starlink network locally after signing up for the company’s just-launched “Roam” service.

Starlink Satellite Internet Service Now Available In South Africa

Starlink satellite Internet service from SpaceX is available in South Africa if you can import its customer premises kit and pay a monthly subscription fee of more than R3,600. Two South Africans, according to information obtained by MyBroadband, were able to access the Starlink network locally after signing up for the company’s just-launched “Roam” service.

James Coetzee, a resident of Johannesburg and co-founder of the specialised Wi-Fi connectivity company QuickConnectWireless, was one of them. The business has been looking into how Starlink might be used in rural South Africa.

It is possible to pre-order a Starlink kit using a South African address, but the product won’t be delivered until the region’s implementation of the service is complete. Fortunately for Coetzee, Starlink has already begun operations in the UK, where his business also has a location.

Coetzee brought the kit to South Africa to test it out after Starlink introduced its portable service for recreational vehicles, which enables use while travelling and outside of the user’s primary country.

He soon learned that Starlink for RVs was limited to a single continent, and while he could connect to the Starlink network, it would not provide the necessary IP address for accessing the Internet. He could access the Internet by paying the $200 (R3,663) Roam subscription fee after Starlink launched international roaming this week.

Although the cost of fixed residential packages varies from one nation to the next, it is significantly less than that of roaming. For instance, it costs $110 in the US (R2,021, excl. VAT).

Coetzee discovered that the service functioned reasonably well during testing at his home and a Johannesburg park. It could deliver download speeds of more than 200Mbps and upload speeds of about 6-7Mbps. The Roam option is meant to be a temporary fix and operates on a best-effort basis, whereas Starlink’s fixed service has certain performance guarantees.

In comparison to other Starlink services, Roam users always have lower priority for network resources, which causes slower speeds and degraded service in congested areas and during peak hours, according to Starlink. The service is not guaranteed to operate at the stated speeds or without interruption.

Initially, Coetzee’s measurements of latency ranged from 100 to 200 ms, but for one test, they were as low as 67 ms. These outcomes are all better than the 600ms or more of geostationary satellite Internet services that are offered in South Africa, but they fall short of Starlink’s 20–40ms claim.

A screenshot from one of Coetzee’s speed tests is shown below. The lack of a Starlink ground station in South Africa may be a contributing factor to the higher-than-normal latency. Although a large portion of Starlink’s satellite fleet is capable of communicating with one another via laser links, they still require connections to terrestrial Starlink Gateways at some point in order to transfer data to and from the Internet.

Starlink officially launched in Nigeria in January 2023, becoming the first African country to support the service. WonderNetwork reported that the average ping between Johannesburg and Lagos was 168 ms, and a MyBroadband Forum member managed to get the service working using an address in an overseas country.

The highest download speed recorded across their shared tests was 148.07 Mbps, while the lowest was 6.26 Mbps. Starlink works in South Africa on its more expensive roaming plan, which is subject to regulatory approvals. It can be ordered in any country where Starlink is listed on the Starlink Availability Map.

On that map, South Africa’s Starlink availability still says, “Service date is unknown at this time.”

Icasa previously told MyBroadband SpaceX would require various licences to operate legally in South Africa, but cast doubts about whether it would meet a 30% black ownership requirement.

The estimated availability date for Starlink has been pushed back repeatedly, and Icasa and SpaceX have remained silent on whether this was due to regulatory delays. Another issue is whether the Starlink kit has received type approval in South Africa. Type approval ensures that a product meets the technical requirements to operate within a stipulated frequency without causing interference.

ICASA’s website showed that an item called “Starlink Satellite Earth Station Gateway” had been approved in 2021, but we could not find any lists of RF equipment that had been approved in 2020 or 2022. MyBroadband asked Icasa if Starlink was licenced to operate its service in the country and whether its kit was type approved, but did not receive feedback.