Is Starlink Internet Services satellite technology coming to Pakistan?

Is Starlink Internet Services satellite technology coming to Pakistan?

While Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has granted permission to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) to introduce Starlink Internet Services in Pakistan, it has come to light that the company has not yet completed all the necessary terms, conditions, and codal formalities in alignment with the government's policy directives.

Official sources have disclosed that various stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, are currently assessing the new satellite technology implemented by Starlink in Low Earth Orbit. Remarkably, no South Asian nation has thus far authorized Starlink to operate within its satellite space, and an evaluation of its technical features is underway.

Caretaker Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication, Dr. Umar Saif, asserted on Wednesday that Prime Minister Kakar had endorsed the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication's plan, which aims to boost exports, bring Starlink and PayPal to Pakistan, and launch Starlink in the country to enhance nationwide connectivity.

However, Starlink's business model involves payment in USD, a non-collaborative approach with country-specific satellite programs, and unique technology features such as laser usage for satellite-to-satellite communication and global roaming, as indicated in Starlink's tweets. These aspects may potentially clash with the current regulatory framework, as noted by technical experts.

The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, in conjunction with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), is actively engaging with all relevant stakeholders to evaluate the technical details presented by Starlink. This evaluation is being conducted through appropriate channels, including the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO).

Ultimately, the PTA will issue the license required to operate in Pakistan, subject to final approval by the government and compliance with existing regulatory provisions, including the Long Distance and International (LDI) and Local Loop (LL) licenses, which permit the provision of satellite-based telecommunication services in their respective licensed regions.

Starlink Internet Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd (Starlink), owned by Starlink Holdings Netherlands BV, applied for an LDI license for Pakistan on February 24, 2022, and submitted 14 LL license applications for all telecom regions of Pakistan on April 29, 2022. The company's progress in obtaining authorization to operate in Pakistan remains contingent on various assessments and regulatory processes.