South African Starlink prices slashed by major importer

StarSat Africa, a major importer of Starlink kits to South Africa, is set to slash prices by 13-20% due to SpaceX’s bulk price reductions. The current R14,999 kit price will drop to R12,000-R13,000, aligning more closely with the US and UK prices. The move aims to make Starlink more accessible in 17 Sub-Saharan African countries. While demand has led to a backlog, the company expects to resolve it by March, offering faster delivery and a two-year warranty. However, regulatory challenges persist, with Starlink facing legal issues in Southern Africa.

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By Hanno Labuschagne

A major importer of Starlink kits to South Africa plans to reduce its equipment prices by between 13% and 20% over the next few weeks.

Mozambique-based StarSat Africa has told MyBroadband it expects to cut its current R14,999 price on Starlink kits to between R12,000 and R13,000.

“It might even be lower, but we have to work in a lot of [fee] hurdles these days,” the company said, referring to additional surcharges levied by the governments of Eswatini and Lesotho.

In addition to South Africa, StarSat Africa offers the import and delivery of Starlink units to 17 Sub-Saharan African countries, including Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

The company said the significant discount was possible due to SpaceX reducing prices on bulk Starlink purchases.

StarSat Africa’s price will now be more closely aligned with the US Starlink kit price of $599 (R11,379) in the US and £449 (R10,750) in the UK.

Rwanda is currently the cheapest place to buy a Starlink kit in Africa, with a price of 485,000 Rwandan francs (R7,174).

The other seven African countries have prices ranging between about R7,400 and R12,000.

While it is possible to buy a kit in these countries and import it to South Africa, you must also account for additional taxes and shipping fees.

StarSat Africa’s price includes all shipping, VAT, and import fees. The company will confirm ts final new pricing towards the end of February 2024.

Starlink kits at Starsat Africa’s warehouse in Maputo

The primary caveat of using Starsat Africa is that they have been inundated with demand, and the turnaround for orders now stands at about four months.

“We have a back order of about 300 units for Namibia and 72 for South Africa,” the company said. These numbers do not include 300 other units still set to arrive from a large Black Friday order.

However, StarSat Africa said the backlogs should be resolved by the end of March, from when customers can expect a turnaround time of 48 hours from ordering to delivery.

Due to SpaceX imposing limits on kit re-registrations, customers who order through StarSat Africa must remain with the provider for at least three months before their account can be released to them.

In exchange for using its services, StarSat Africa offers a two-year warranty on all equipment failures with a two-day priority delivery turnaround for the new unit.

For damage that falls outside of the warranty, like hail or lightning, the replacement price applies, but a kit will be made available immediately for a swap.

Starlink kit in a camp in the Kruger National Park

Those not interested in these supplementary services can import the kit themselves or use another major importer — IcasaSePush.

The company currently charges R17,998 for a Starlink kit, setup costs, surge protector plug, and the first month of a regional roaming subscription. This has a turnaround time of four to six weeks.

The option does not require the customer to sign up for an account via IcasaSePush.

The account is registered directly with Starlink in the user’s own name, and they have full control over it from the start.

The benefit of this option is a lower monthly payment for the regional roaming subscription, currently ranging between R700 and R880, depending on the country of registration.

Customers can also import the kit themselves and pay R3,499 for the subscription setup in another country.

There is also an expedited option for R27,998 with the kit and installation that will see the package shipped the next day.

While Starlink is not officially available in South Africa, its roaming services work across the country.

It supports download speeds and uploads of around 100Mbps and 20Mbps, respectively, much better than rival satellite services and cellular networks in deep rural areas.

However, South Africa’s communications regulator — the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) — has warned that using Starlink is illegal because the company does not possess the necessary operating and spectrum licences.

According to StarSat Africa, which counts the bulk of the 14,000+ users of Starlink in South Africa among its customers, these warnings have been largely ignored.

Icasa is not the only regulatory authority in Southern Africa that has not taken kindly to Starlink.

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is reportedly conducting nationwide raids with police to apprehend people using Starlink and confiscate their kits.

Botswana has also rejected Starlink’s initial bid for an operating licence due to “missing requirements” in its application.

SpaceX has at least sought regulatory approval in these countries.

According to the latest available information from Icasa, the company has only had two discussions with the regulator about getting local approval and has not applied for a licence locally.

One of the major hurdles to a local Starlink launch is South Africa’s ISP ownership rules for previously-disadvantaged people.

Whereas other international satellite providers that don’t meet these requirements have been able to offer services in South Africa, they used local partners.

Starlink’s business model for residential packages is strictly direct-to-customer, although its enterprise division does have partnerships with resellers.

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This article was first published by My Broadband and is republished with permission