Pakistan is next to halt Starlink preorders

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TAMPA, Fla. — Pakistan has followed India in ordering SpaceX to stop taking preorders for Starlink broadband services within its borders without a license.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said in a Jan. 19 news release that “Starlink has neither applied for nor obtained any license from PTA to operate and provide internet services” in the country.

The telecoms regulator advised the general public to refrain from pre-booking the service in Pakistan through Starlink or associated websites.

“The directions came in the wake of reports that Starlink, through its website, is asking intended subscribers to pay a deposit of USD 99 (refundable) as pre-order for equipment/services,” PTA said.

“PTA has already taken up the matter with Starlink to stop taking pre-order bookings from intended consumers with immediate effect as the Company has not been granted any license for provision of internet services in Pakistan.”

SpaceX, which did not respond to an email requesting comment, appeared to be still accepting preorder deposits for addresses in Pakistan through Starlink’s website as of Jan. 19.

The website appeared to remain open to Indian addresses in the days that followed a similar public announcement Nov. 26 from India’s government, which also called on the company to stop taking preorders until Starlink has a license to operate in the country.

However, addresses in India now tell prospective subscribers that Starlink is unavailable “due to pending regulatory approval” instead of processing a preorder.

Starlink’s lead executive in India announced Jan. 4 that he had resigned for personal reasons, hours after Reuters, TechCrunch and others reported that SpaceX emailed customers in India to say preorder deposits would be refunded until Starlink is licensed to operate there.  

Meanwhile, SpaceX is pressing ahead with an aggressive deployment schedule to build out global coverage, launching Jan. 18 a batch of 49 Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket to low Earth orbit (LEO).

According to statistics kept by astrophysicist and spaceflight analyst Jonathan McDowell, the launch means SpaceX is operating 1,879 Starlink satellites in LEO. The company is authorized to operate 4,408 satellites at around 550 kilometers.

More than 750,000 people worldwide have preordered the satellite internet services, according to Starlink.

Separately, SpaceX is seeking U.S. Federal Communications Commission approval for a second-generation network of nearly 30,000 satellites to improve Starlink’s services.

Launches for this second generation could start as early as March following regulatory approvals, according to a lawyer for SpaceX, including permission the company needs to fly the Starship vehicle it is developing from Boca Chica, Texas.