Improving Internet Access in Ghana: Government Plans to License Starlink

In an effort to enhance internet access in Ghana, the Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has unveiled plans to license the satellite internet network Starlink for operation in the country. This move comes as part of the government’s strategy to address internet disruptions and improve connectivity nationwide.

Starlink internet access in Ghana
Starlink internet access in Ghana

During a parliamentary briefing on March 18, Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful highlighted the government’s initiatives to mitigate internet disruptions. She revealed that they have already licensed satellite gateway air stations, landing rights, and satellite air station networks, with OneWeb already holding a license. Starlink is currently in the process of obtaining its license, and the government is encouraging other operators to establish operations in Ghana as well.

Furthermore, Minister Owusu-Ekuful emphasized the importance of leveraging regional resources, such as the Regional African Satellite Company (RASCOM), to enhance connectivity instead of each country pursuing individual initiatives. She urged organizations to safeguard their digital assets by storing content, databases, applications, and services in multiple tier-three or tier-four data centers across the country, with the National Data Center serving as a reliable primary or backup host for data recovery.

Addressing the regulatory framework for licensing satellites, Minister Owusu-Ekuful acknowledged the absence of such a framework in the past but highlighted recent efforts to rectify this gap. The National Communications Authority (NCA) has developed a comprehensive satellite licensing framework, which outlines the application process, licensing requirements, and associated fees. This framework aims to streamline the authorization process for satellite services in Ghana, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards.

In December 2023, the ministry issued a cautionary notice advising against purchasing items from Starlink due to its lack of licensing in Ghana. Operating without proper authorization violates Section 3(1) of the Electronic Communications Act 2008, Act 775. However, Minister Owusu-Ekuful assured the public that the ministry has conducted thorough due diligence and is prepared to grant Starlink an operating license to facilitate improved internet access.

The proposed framework underwent industry consultation and received approval, with the objective of enhancing regulatory oversight, expanding connectivity options for consumers, and implementing other regulatory measures. Despite acknowledging the relatively high costs associated with Starlink’s services, Minister Owusu-Ekuful assured that plans are underway to engage additional sector players to cater to individuals across various economic segments.

She emphasized ongoing discussions regarding affordable back-haul satellite solutions in collaboration with satellite service providers under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). These discussions aim to identify cost-effective solutions to enhance internet access nationwide, leveraging the expertise and resources of both public and private entities.

In conclusion, the government’s decision to license Starlink and implement a comprehensive regulatory framework demonstrates its commitment to improving internet access in Ghana. By fostering collaboration with regional and international partners, leveraging technological advancements, and adopting a strategic approach to regulation, Ghana aims to overcome existing challenges and achieve widespread connectivity for its citizens.

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