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Starlink Kits Conundrum: South African Reseller Leaves Customers in Limbo

Published March 27, 2024
1 months ago

A complex situation has unraveled for hundreds of South African consumers who purchased Starlink kits through an unofficial reseller, Starsat Africa. The dilemma emerged when these customers found themselves abruptly disconnected from the Starlink service this February. An investigation suggested that Starsat Africa's actions violated Starlink's Terms of Service, which stipulate that SpaceX's satellite internet service must only be directly managed by users, not intermediaries.

SpaceX hasn't officially launched Starlink in South Africa; thus, the service operates in a limited capacity through higher-priced roaming subscriptions. Local entities like Starsat Africa emerged to fill the gap, offering kit imports and management services. However, this practice has infringed upon Starlink's policy.

Starsat Africa is accused of being reticent in its communication with its approximately 350-400 disturbed customers, offering little information on efforts to unblock their accounts. Clients have taken to social media to express their frustrations, with no affirmative resolution from Starsat Africa's side.

The controversy extends to another company, IT Lec, previously known for its large-scale importation of Starlink kits and its similar account management. Allegations, spurred by findings including matching bank account details, suggest a close link between IT Lec and Starsat Africa, potentially involving a director common to both entities.

IT Lec had transferred around 3,000 Starlink users to Starsat Africa following a cease-and-desist from South Africa's communications regulator. As a result, customers who were paying inflated prices for roaming subscriptions are now caught in limbo. The supposed network of interconnected players may have turned a significant profit before regulatory scrutiny increased.

Starsat Africa has currently left users with bricked kits two choices: either pay a significant sum for a replacement unit or pay for a "migration" service to self-manage their accounts—a move met with indignation. Meanwhile, MyBroadband's inquiries have been met with silence from both IT Lec and Starsat Africa.

In sharp contrast to the resellers' unresponsiveness, individual users have reported mixed results when contacting Starlink directly. Some assert they've successfully convinced the company to unblock their kits after lengthy discussions and proof of legitimate ownership. However, this pathway remains unclear for many.

As of now, affected customers are caught in a bind, with several potential next steps but no definitive solution in sight. The overarching message is one of caution: buyers should beware of the potential pitfalls when engaging with unofficial resellers, especially in regions where services like Starlink have yet to establish official operations.

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