Advanced Television

Starlink in licensing discussions with ICASA

February 16, 2021

By Chris Forrester

Elon Musk’s Starlink broadband-by-satellite system has added South Africa as a target market.

South Africa’s media and telecoms regulator ICASA (Independent Communication Authority of South Africa) confirming that SpaceX is in discussion with the reguklator about obtaining a licence to operate in the country.

To operate in South Africa and to provide its satellite-based internet service in South Africa, SpaceX will need to acquire an Individual Electronic Communications Network Service (I-ECNS) and Individual Electronics Communications Service license.

“ICASA had a brief meeting with SpaceX about the regulatory requirements last week. A further meeting will be held in due course on the same matter,” the Authority told local press.

However, there’s a potential technical problem. South Africa is the host of the giant Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope which is based in a recognised ‘Radio Quiet Zone’ and extremely isolated location where external interference is minimal.

The SKA operates in the 10.6-10.7 GHz band. SpaceX uses the 10.7-12.7 GHz bands for its downlinks to users. The organisation behind the SKA is worried that these downlinks from a multitude of Low Earth orbiting Starlink satellites will simply saturate and drown out the sensitive SKA signals.

Starlink has been widely reported to be looking to start services globally during 2022, and including South Africa.

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