How you will personally benefit from Starlink’s presence in Zim even without purchasing a kit

If you take anything from this article, it’s that Starlink’s presence in Zimbabwe could lead to improved internet services, even if you don’t directly use their products. By partnering with Starlink or OneWeb for backhauling services, local providers like Econet, NetOne, Liquid, Telco, Utande and others can expand their networks more affordably, resulting in faster […] The post How you will personally benefit from Starlink’s presence in Zim even without purchasing a kit appeared first on Techzim.

Jun 10, 2024 - 23:30
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How you will personally benefit from Starlink’s presence in Zim even without purchasing a kit

If you take anything from this article, it’s that Starlink’s presence in Zimbabwe could lead to improved internet services, even if you don’t directly use their products. By partnering with Starlink or OneWeb for backhauling services, local providers like Econet, NetOne, Liquid, Telco, Utande and others can expand their networks more affordably, resulting in faster speeds, lower latency, and potentially lower costs for consumers.

The Director General of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) said Starlink should start rolling out in Zimbabwe between July and September. He says that’s what Starlink said in its application but that doesn’t mean they will meet that deadline.

That’s around the corner and judging from our trip to IMC’s offices (Starlink’s local partners), it will likely take them at least the entire month of June to get everything ready.

The DG also said,

In their application they will provide backhauling connectivity and they can also enter into commercial arrangements with local players.

It doesn’t like much but this is exactly why we were moaning about Starlink’s licensing taking too long. It is a big deal. Let us unpack what Starlink providing backhauling services means.

Backhauling vs direct internet access

When we think of Starlink, we think of direct internet access to end users. This is where you buy your $600 kit, fasten it to your roof and treat yourself to unlimited internet in your home.

With this direct internet access to end users, Starlink targets individual households, small businesses and remote locations.

Starlink provides high-speed internet directly to end users via a satellite dish and modem. Users connect their personal devices (computers, smartphones, etc.) to the internet through this setup.

Starlink also offers backhaul services and here the target market are; Internet service providers (ISPs like TelOne, Liquid, Utande, Telco), mobile network operators (like Econet and NetOne), businesses, and emergency services.

Starlink provides high-capacity connections that link smaller local networks to larger, core networks. This is used to extend internet connectivity from central locations to outlying areas.

To understand what that entails, consider Econet using Starlink to connect remote cell towers to its core network, ensuring mobile coverage in those areas.

Backhaul services are aimed at network infrastructure, providing connectivity for other networks or service providers to extend their reach.

So, even without a Starlink kit yourself, you still could benefit from Starlink’s services if they can find a way to “enter into commercial arrangements with local players.”

This is what the Minister of ICT meant when she said existing and future sector operators can utilise Starlink services for cheaper access, especially in remote places that are currently difficult to service using fibre or cell towers.

AMN Nigeria

Just last month, Africa Mobile Networks Group made the following announcement:

AMN is pleased to announce that the first AMN base station is now live using LEO backhaul from SpaceX’s Starlink.  In 2023, AMN announced a commercial agreement to use Starlink, SpaceX’s constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, to connect AMN’s mobile network base stations with high-speed, low-latency broadband services. 

By utilising Starlink terminals to provide low-latency satellite backhaul, we are able to deliver the full capability of AMN’s unique multi-carrier radio access node (the ARN) with 3G and 4G as well as 2G, with ever-increasing amounts of bandwidth and data volumes demanded by subscribers whilst remaining economically sustainable. The LEO backhaul also paves the way for AMN to deliver 5G services, targeted before the end of 2024.

I hope you appreciate how big of a deal that is. AMN is using Starlink infrastructure to connect their cell towers in rural areas to the internet. Through that they will be able to offer 5G to the Nigerian countryside before the end of 2024.

See, there are several ways that cell towers are connected to the core network. Some are connected through fibre optic cables but that’s expensive. So, many (most?) use microwave links etc.

Many existing backhaul connections (e.g., older microwave links or limited-capacity fiber) can’t deliever high-capacity backhaul to support their high data rates and low latency that 5G requires.

However, Starlink does the have the capacity and data rates to allow mobile network operators to offer 5G even in the rural areas.

This could allow Econet to expand its 5G network from a handful spots in major cities to the whole of Zimbabwe for much cheaper than it would have cost otherwise. In the same vein, NetOne could get in on the 5G action too .

I imagine Econet will go with Liquid and OneWeb for their satellite backhaul needs whilst TelOne and NetOne, being parastatals will go with the IMC-linked Starlink.

We all win

This satellite backhaul business means if Starlink and local players strike deals, everyone will benefit from Starlink’s licensing. Even if you can’t afford a personal Starlink kit, you could find yourself getting Econet or NetOne’s 5G in that neighbourhood of yours that is lucky to get 2G half the time.

So, regardless of Chivhayo’s involvement, it’s a good thing Starlink and OneWeb now have a presence in Zimbabwe.

Also read:

The post How you will personally benefit from Starlink’s presence in Zim even without purchasing a kit appeared first on Techzim.

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David Lee Munemo David Lee Munemo is a rising Zimbabwean journalist with a passion for making complex news discoveries accessible to the public. Driven by a belief in the importance of information communication, David's work tackles a variety of news fields, from groundbreaking entertainment research to the latest political news.