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National

Re: Starlink operations are illegal in Ghana

Bunkpurugu Constituency Member of Parliament, Abed-Nego Bandim,

The attention of my office and that of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament has been drawn to a press statement issued by the National Communications Authority (NCA) dated 7th December, 2023 with the subject quoted supra.

As a member of the Communications Committee of Parliament I deem it necessary to issue a response.

CONTEXT

Starlink, the largest satellite network globally, operates Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to provide high-speed internet, supporting activities like streaming, online gaming, and video calls.

Through cutting-edge satellites and user equipment, along with extensive expertise in space technology and operations, Starlink, owned by Elon Musk who needs no introduction, offers fast and responsive internet access to users worldwide.

For example, Starlink has played a significant role in the Russia-Ukraine war. Independent analysts can use Starlink’s technology to track which party is committing war crimes in real time and at precise locations.

The National Communications Authority (NCA) is clearly several generations behind tracking such state-of-the-art satellite technology. Even if Starlink has started fully operating in Ghana as reported, or they are to start operating in April 2024 as reported, does the NCA have the capacity to track such operations? Ditto for other companies with similar technologies such as Starlink’s, or with non GPS technology which could be operating within Ghana’s territorial space silently without the knowledge of the NCA.

In other words, it is possible that Starlink has satellite systems well above and beyond Ghana’s airspace but in compliance with international law.  Some reputable sources suggest that Starlink is already operating in Ghana with an internet speed of up to 100Mbps.

The regular Mobile Network Operators such as MTN, Vodafone and AirtelTiGo use terrestrial systems such as broadband technology and mount masts across the country for cellular voice and data services.

IMPLICATIONS

With this context in view, this is my take on the matter:

An Authority such as the NCA should have the power to stamp its authority within its jurisdiction on anything that is going wrong within its mandate. Is it possible that ordinary folk and election observers can use Starlink’s services to track in real time the movement of ballot boxes and pink sheets so as to ensure free, fair and transparent elections devoid of acrimony and disputes?

 SUGGESTIONS/WAY FORWARD

1. It is not enough issuing statements to notify and warn the general public against the operations of Starlink. In the instant NCA press release which has gone viral, ordinary folk in the countryside where rural telephony is lacking are reportedly using Starlink’s services to carry on with their lives. Starlink should, therefore, be brought to the discussion table with the aim of getting them to regularise their operations. After all, what is wrong with making a phone call or using the internet to prepare your classroom lesson notes in the rural Nakpanduri/Bunkpurugu district within my constituency - if it is available from whichever source? Consequently, the national security implications of the instant matter cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, the NCA must wake up now and become more proactive rather than reactive.

2. I further suggest that the NCA should collaborate with the Office of the Registrar of Companies (ORC) for early detection of companies venturing into ICT.

3.  The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), on the other hand, should also assist via tax auditing of companies in ICT; the NCA cannot afford to be losing out on licenses and other regulatory fees as a result of illegal activities within the ICT space.

4. Starlink has been in orbit since 2019, a period of four years when the NCA has been caught belly up and only stargazing. Worst still, their press release failed to address squarely the instant Starlink dilemma.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.



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