Starlink has been expanding rapidly this year, adding support for several African countries. Starlink launched their service in Zambia in October, and apparently, the satellite internet service is in high demand. In most of the country, Starlink availability is not a problem. But if you are in or around Zambia’s capital city Lusaka, you might have to wait to get Starlink.
Starlink is a game changer for the deployment of high speed, low latency broadband internet. In markets where the construction of terrestrial communication lines is slow, low Earth orbit satellite internet services offer an alternative for immediate connection. Residents no longer have to wait for local utilities to connect their homes to the internet grid. All it takes to connect in a place like Zambia is a Starlink antenna and subscription.
The satellite internet revolution does have some downsides, though. The dreaded Starlink “waitlist” is one of them. Even though service is now live in Zambia, Starlink has limited user capacity within each service cell. A service cell is a hexagon shaped area, defined by Starlink, that stretches around 7-12 miles in diameter. Starlink satellites can only serve a finite amount of customers within each service cell. So when too many people sign up within one area, Starlink has to limit availability to maintain network stability and performance.
That’s exactly what happened in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. So many people signed up for Starlink in and around Lusaka that Starlink had to start a waitlist in the cell that covers the area. If you live in Lusaka, and want to order Starlink, you’ll have to wait until capacity expands. Potential customers can pay a small deposit to be added to the waitlist, and have a place in line for when availability opens up. When capacity expands, people on the waitlist will be the first to get service.
Starlink’s waitlist was a common issue in the US for most of Starlink’s history. The demand for service far outpaced the deployment of Starlink satellites, and as a result, people were signing up far faster than Starlink could add capacity. In fact, Starlink just recently got rid of the waitlist in the US. Everyone thought it was a thing of the past, with over 5,000 Starlink satellites in service.