Huge black market for Musk’s Starlink – Bloomberg

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The news agency has reported numerous cases of illegal trade and activation of satellite terminals

Starlink satellite communication terminals, manufactured by Elon Musk’s SpaceX for exclusive use on his network, can be purchased illegally in countries where no agreement exists for their use – including nations that are subject to international sanctions, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

A growing black-market trade has reportedly emerged in territories with poor internet coverage and quality, where there is a need for high-speed online communications.

Starlink kits, developed and operated by the US aerospace company, are in “widespread use” in Yemen, which is in the midst of a decade-long civil war, according to an unnamed government official cited by Bloomberg.

Western diplomats told the news agency that the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces are using Starlink systems in Sudan “for their logistics,” as the internet has been down in the country since February.

Web users in South Africa and Venezuela can also bypass a ban and activate Starlink terminals using retailers and international credit cards. The South American nation is the subject of sanctions imposed by the UK, the US, and other Western allies.

In South Africa, where the government hasn’t yet approved Starlink’s application to operate, terminals are being traded on Facebook groups. Dealers offer to purchase and activate kits in neighboring Mozambique, where they are licensed, and then deliver them over the border to South African customers.

SpaceX currently has some 5,500 Starlink satellites in low-earth orbit, providing web services to around 2.6 million customers. The company launched in 2019, while CEO Elon Musk is aiming to increase the total number of satellites to 42,000 in the coming decades.

Earlier this year, the Ukrainian authorities claimed that the Russian military had been using the Starlink satellite service on the battlefield. The service has been widely used by the Ukrainian Army during the military conflict after Musk unlocked the service for Kiev’s forces in the early stages of the conflict.

Musk has denied supplying the Starlink satellite internet network to Russian troops, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow had never officially ordered SpaceX’s internet terminals, adding that they are not certified for use in Russia.

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