Home Internet Elon Musk’s Starlink Reportedly Nearing Internet Deal With Yemen Government

Elon Musk’s Starlink Reportedly Nearing Internet Deal With Yemen Government

Topline

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is close to inking a deal to provide Starlink satellite internet to Yemen, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, an agreement that could dramatically boost connectivity for the war-torn country where millions suffer after years of bloody civil war and Iran-backed Houthi rebels continue to disrupt global trade by attacking ships in the Red Sea.

Key Facts

A senior government official, who was not named as he did not have permission to discuss the negotiations, said the Yemeni government is now in the process of finalizing a licensing agreement with SpaceX, Starlink’s parent firm.

The deal, which would grant access to Starlink’s large network of satellites that orbit Earth and beam high-speed internet down to the surface, could still take around a month to complete, the Yemeni official said.

If finalized, the deal has the potential to transform connectivity in Yemen, which has been wracked by years of brutal civil war that has helped the country rank among the worst in the world in terms of internet access, speed and censorship.

It would also mark a victory for Yemen’s Saudi-backed and UN-recognized government over the Houthi rebels it has fought for years, who control much of the country and have exploited their control over telecommunications networks to solidify their position and suppress dissent.

SpaceX did not immediately reply to Forbes’ request for comment.

But Isn’t Starlink Already Operating In Yemen?

The deal would make Yemen one of the few countries officially licensed to tap into Starlink’s satellite network in the Middle East, joining the likes of Israel and Jordan. “Officially” is, however, a crucial modifier here. An array of investigations, reports and comments from various government officials and lawmakers, including in the U.S., have revealed a sprawling black market for Starlink’s technology. This includes use by criminals and military groups — many enemies of the U.S. — in areas including Sudan, South Africa, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Russian-occupied Ukraine and Yemen, who have reportedly been able to use the internet services without having a license to operate. SpaceX has previously vowed to investigate and “take actions to deactivate” terminals being used by unauthorized or internationally sanctioned parties.

Key Background

Based in orbit, Starlink’s satellites would be much harder for Yemen’s Houthi rebels to target than other critical telecommunications infrastructure. It underscores the growing power of non-state groups like Starlink in areas traditionally dominated by states and in recent years Musk has found himself in diplomatic crossfires over disputes regarding access to the technology in areas like Ukraine. Starlink’s service, powered by the world’s largest private constellation of satellites, is available commercially in some countries like the U.S. and Musk hopes to one day offer globally and expand to include cell phone services. Its ability to beam data down from orbit overcomes many of the obstacles imposed by geography and infrastructure usually faced by cell and internet services. While speeds will likely be much lower than traditional means of getting online, the service can supplement connectivity dead zones and offer coverage in remote areas that would be unlikely to be served by traditional supplies.

Tangent

Houthi militants have snarled global trade in recent months and escalated tensions in the region dramatically by attacking trade ships in the Red Sea and are thought to have targeted undersea cables carrying global internet and telecoms services under the waterway as well. The militants have denied cutting the crucial fiber optic cables that carry significant portions of global internet traffic but maintained attacks on ships in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Forbes Valuation

Musk is worth an estimated $199.6 billion. He is the second richest person on Earth, after LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, having recently overtaken Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. A good deal of Musk’s wealth and social clout comes from the cohort of companies he cofounded and leads including Tesla, SpaceX, xAI, Neuralink and The Boring Company, as well as social media firm and aspirant everything app X, which he purchased as Twitter in 2022.

Further Reading

ForbesElon Musk’s SpaceX Makes First X Post From Starlink Satellite In SpaceForbesRead The First Texts Elon Musk’s SpaceX Sent Via Its Starlink Satellites Orbiting EarthForbesElon Musk Says Tesla’s Humanoid Optimus Robot Could Launch Next Year-Here’s What Experts Think

Musk’s Starlink Inches Closer to Yemen License, Official Says (Bloomberg)

Elon Musk’s Starlink Terminals Are Falling Into the Wrong Hands (Bloomberg)

 

Reference

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