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Elon Musk's Starlink Future in Pakistan | PTA has Yet to Decide


Earth with communication satellites and dishes

Elon Musk's Starlink Future in Pakistan | PTA has Yet to Decide

What is Elon Musk's Starlink

Elon Musk's Starlink is a satellite-based internet service developed by SpaceX back in 2019, a company founded by Musk. The aim of Starlink is to provide high-speed, low-latency internet access to remote and rural areas where traditional internet infrastructure is not available or unreliable.

Starlink internet service is achieved through a constellation of thousands of small low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which communicate with ground-based user terminals, allowing for internet access from virtually anywhere on the planet. It promises to offer high-speed internet with speeds up to 1Gbps.

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Status of Starlink Services in Pakistan

When hovering over the Pakistan Map in “View Availability Map” on Starlink’s official website, the message “Pending Regulatory Approval” appears.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is yet to grant a license to Starlink, a satellite-based internet service provider. While user data security is a key concern for PTA, the regulator is also evaluating Starlink's business model and technical arrangements, which have not been fully addressed by the company. PTA is engaging with American-based satellite service providers to ensure that satellite-based services conform to applicable licensing regulations and protect the rights of licensed operators in Pakistan while delivering quality services to users.

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PTA sources reveal that the expected price for the device used to access Starlink's network is approximately $700 US dollars, with a monthly subscription of $100 US dollars for a 100Mbps internet connection package in Pakistan. This means only the device price alone will cost around Rs. 196,000 and the monthly package will cost around Rs. 28,000, which is higher than any other optical fiber or fixed-line operator already offering services in Pakistan. Furthermore, Starlink's current payment procedure is another concern as it accepts only credit cards which makes things more complicated for users living in far-flung areas of the country with very little access to financial services especially when it comes to making a payment in a foreign currency.

The regulator is analyzing regional countries that have strict satellite regulations and have yet to award licenses to Starlink due to similar concerns. PTA is in discussions with the company to ensure it abides by all licensing formalities, particularly regarding data hosting inside Pakistan and satellite-to-satellite communication bypassing terrestrial gateways. PTA officials state that all relevant stakeholders, including the Ministry of Information Technology, are being consulted to assess the impact of utilizing spectrum in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Until the license is granted, PTA has restrained Starlink from accepting device orders from Pakistani customers through credit cards.

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Main Concerns about the Starlink Services

The project is seen as a way to bridge the digital divide and bring internet access to underserved communities around the world. Starlink has already launched hundreds of satellites and has been providing service to select areas in North America, Europe, Australia and other regions. However, there have also been concerns about the impact of these services as below;

Data Security

One of the main concerns regarding Starlink's services is data security. As the company provides satellite-based internet services, there is a risk that sensitive information could be intercepted by unauthorized parties.

Business Model

Another concern is Starlink's business model, which has not been fully addressed by the company. The expected price for accessing Starlink's network and the monthly subscription fee are significantly higher than the rates offered by other internet service providers in Pakistan.

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Technical Arrangements

The technical arrangements of Starlink's services are also being evaluated. There are concerns that the company's satellite-to-satellite communication, which bypasses terrestrial gateways, could affect the operations of other licensed operators in Pakistan.

Payment Procedure

Starlink's current payment procedure through credit cards could be a challenge for Pakistani users living in remote areas with little access to financial services.

Impact on Astronomy

There are concerns that Starlink's satellite constellation could have a negative impact on astronomy, as it could interfere with astronomical observations and research.

Space Debris

Starlink's satellite constellation could also contribute to space debris, which poses a risk to other satellites and space missions.

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Starlink’s Commitment about Space Sustainability

Even though there are some concerns but the company (Starlink) is commented to meet or exceed regulatory and industry standards, saying that the company not only leads the industry in innovations to reduce satellite brightness but also on-orbit debris mitigation.

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