ISLAMABAD: Although Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has given a go-ahead to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) to launch Starlink Internet Services in Pakistan, the company has yet to fulfil all terms, conditions and codal formalities as per policy directions of the government, it is learnt.

Official sources told Business Recorder that currently relevant stakeholders including law enforcement agencies are evaluating the new satellite technology implemented by the Starlink in Low Earth Orbit and as per the information available with Business Recorder, no South Asian country has yet permitted Starlink to operate in its satellite space, and its technical features are being evaluated.

Kakar gives go-ahead to plan aimed at bringing PayPal, Starlink to Pakistan

The Caretaker Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication, Dr Umar Saif, on Wednesday claimed that Prime Minister Kakar approved the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication plan for enhancing exports, bringing Starlink and PayPal, as well as, launch of Starlink in Pakistan to improve connectivity throughout the country.

However, Starlink business model is payment of fee in USD, non collaborative approach with country specific satellite programmes, unique technology features like laser usage for satellite to satellite communication and global roaming in pipeline as per tweets of Starlink which may conflict with current regulatory regime as per critical analysis through various technical experts.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and PTA are engaged with all stakeholders in relation to the technical details provided by the Starlink which is under evaluation by the relevant forums including SUPARCO.

Obtaining a license to operate in Pakistan will be taken by the PTA after final approval by the government and in accordance with existing regulatory provisions, Long Distance and International (LDI) and Local Loop (LL) licencees of PTA which allows providing satellite-based telecommunication services in respective licensed region(s).

Starlink Internet Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd (Starlink) which is owned by Starlink Holdings Netherlands BV, applied for LDI licence for Pakistan on 24th February 2022 along with 14 x LL licence for all telecom regions of Pakistan on 29th April 2022.

All stakeholders were intimated, and Starlink case is being analysed from technical perspective on non-exclusive, non-interference, and non-protection basis. Starlink Internet Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd (Starlink) approached PTA to permit Starlink (SpaceX) to operate in Pakistan.

Traditional satellites are operating in Pakistan in Geo Stationary Orbit (GSO) (at an altitude of 36000kms). However, Starlink differs from GSO technically, as it operates in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude between 250 and 500kms; thus, provides low latency connectivity.

Starlink/ SpaceX satellites can also communicate with many Ground Stations at a time and conversely, one ground station can connect to many Starlink satellites. Satellite-to-satellite connectivity also exists through laser technology to effectively expand footprint in all areas.

Internet bandwidth is normally accessed from ground station within the country, where services are extended through Starlink; thus, optical fibre cable bandwidth is up/ down linked through space stations and internet services are provided to the end user in the country.

Officials said that this technology is still in its early stages and further progress could not be made due to some security concerns. The officials revealed that SpaceX’s Starlink currently uses beta version which is not fully secured.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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