Bloomberg: Musk’s Starlink terminals can be bought illegally on the black market

Starlink Internet terminals from US businessman Elon Musk’s SpaceX company Starlink can be illegally bought in many parts of the world where they are not officially sold or working, Bloomberg reports on Tuesday, citing sources.

“The investigation … has uncovered numerous examples of Starlink kits being illegally sold and activated. The way they are smuggled, as well as the apparent availability of Starlink on the black market, indicates that their misuse is a systematic global problem,” the agency wrote following its own investigation.

Unnamed Western diplomats told the agency that Starlink terminals can be bought in Sudan, where they are used, in particular, by the Rapid Reaction Force opposing the government army. According to the agency, Sudanese traders register the terminals in Dubai, after which they are transported by plane to Uganda, from where Starlink kits are transported north to Sudan via overland routes. According to one local trader, “people pay two or three dollars an hour” for internet access, so it is “very good business”.

Terminals are also being sold in U.S.-sanctioned Venezuela, although an Internet coverage map notes that Starlink does not operate in that country, Bloomberg writes.

In South Africa, the country’s authorities have not yet approved the use of Musk’s internet, but the Starlink trade is “thriving” thanks to social media groups where sellers offer kits activated in neighbouring Mozambique, where their use is legal.

Even if SpaceX blocks the illegally activated terminals, the wranglers re-register them in third countries and re-activate them. According to a former US government official, the administration of US President Joe Biden may tighten export controls to keep Musk’s terminals “out of the hands of America’s enemies.”

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