We have news for you, Zimbabweans can now sign up for Elon Musk’s Starlink Satillite internet. If you have US$99 lying around you can make the pre-order right now on their website. All you need is a Visa Card or MasterCard. Prepaid cards are now pretty easy to find in Zimbabwe. The service is currently in beta in northen parts of the United States and so far the results have been impressive.
So what’s Starlink and why should Zimbabweans care?
Starlink is the future of satellite internet. Right now you have to be in Harare to get internet that can be barely called affordable. Even near Harare areas like Domboshava have no Wireless or Fibre coverage with the only option being VSAT internet which is often capped and very expensive. Not only do you have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for it but it’s slow as well with speeds often less than 5 Mbps. These pitiful speeds are barely adequate for a single household (but remember individuals cannot afford VSAT) let alone a school with 1000 kids who want WiFi on their phones.
Starlink is a different beast, instead of relying on single large and expensive satellites that orbit the earth, Starlink relies on a constellation of relatively inexpensive satellites that are much much closer to earth. That means low latency connections that can be used for things like ZOOM, Skype and gaming. This means that when Starlink comes to Zimbabwe, you will be able to sign up no matter where you are.
So how fast is Starlink? Those on the Beta program have been able to get speeds of 100 Mbps and Starlink have promised that speeds will double next year. Currently the only way to get those speeds is if you pay for ZOL or TelOne Fibre not only do you need to be in an area with coverage but you will also need to pay either ZOL or TelOne about US$300. In comparison Starlink will only charge you US$99 per month!
Not only will Starlink be cheaper but their latency i.e. the time it takes for your data to reach the intended destination is much lower than that of Econet, TelOne or even ZOL Wibroniks. If you are struggling with this concept just think of it this way, if you have Starlink and someone has Wibroniks and you both type Facebook.com in your browsers the person with Starlink gets there first even if your internet speed is the same.
Starlink wins on the installation part as well. Installing VSAT requires engineers to come to the site. If you move to another place you need to hire this same people to do the job. With Starlink it’s different. You just plug in the equipment which is so simple to plugin any idiot should be able to do it. The dish aligns itself you just put it outside, wait 15 minutes and you should have internet. When moving you just put it in a box and go to your new location, connect it again point it to the sky and it will realign itself. You get that same 100Mbps+ even in Binga.
Same story with cost. Zimbabwean ISPs like to charge loads of money for equipment. Starlink costs about US$500 upfront for the equipment. This is comparable to what ISPs are charging for fibre installation. Naturally $500 is more expensive compared to LTE equipment which ISPs sell for US$250 but this is satellite internet and we have universal coverage. In any case Zimbabwean internet providers still charge more for VSAT.
How to sign up for Starlink Internet
- If you are sold you can sign up by Visiting the Starlink website.
- Enter you address and click Order
- Pay the US$99
- Wait for the service to be active and you will receive priority.
Starlink is aiming to be available in 2022 so only pay using funds you have to spare. If the service does become available you will be one of the first to get your Dishy.