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Nomads Den offers a Wifi 6 network with multiple access points (unifi)

Understanding the POP Challenges with Starlink Roaming Subscription in South Africa

Over the past week, we've been testing Starlink's satellite internet at Nomads Den in South Africa. We set it up alongside our existing Telkom fiber connection on our Unifi network, using load balancing. While the connectivity has been impressive, there's a crucial factor you should consider if you're thinking of using Starlink's roaming subscription in South Africa: the issue of Point-of-Presence (POP).

What is POP in the Context of Starlink?

When you browse the internet, your POP is essentially the geographical location and IP address that websites see you accessing from. For example, if you’re checking your email or streaming on Netflix, the service provider identifies your location via your IP, which is your POP. With Starlink’s roaming subscription, your POP is based on where you’ve subscribed. In our case, that’s Mozambique. So, even though we’re physically in South Africa, digitally, it appears as if we’re in Mozambique.

How Does Telkom Fiber’s POP Compare?

Our Telkom fiber, provided through Openserve, is based in South Africa. This means both our physical and digital presence is in South Africa, often showing a POP in cities like Pretoria or Polokwane.

Why is an External POP Problematic?

If you’re solely using Starlink, your digital location will always appear as Mozambique, which can lead to several complications:

1. Streaming Services:

Platforms like Netflix, Prime, or DSTV may not work as they are often geo-fenced. We found that our DSTV subscription was blocked when using Starlink.

2. Remote Work:

Employers may block connections from outside the country for security reasons, requiring special permissions that can be cumbersome to obtain.

3. Online Verification:

South African websites may frequently challenge your logins with CAPTCHA or OTP, affecting your workflow.

4. Localized Content:

Search engines and ads will tailor their content as if you’re in Mozambique, affecting your online shopping and browsing experience.

5. Data Compliance:

Certain sectors may have restrictions on data crossing borders.

Additional Load Balancing Issues

When using load balancing, your network will alternate between Starlink and Telkom. This can trigger security flags on various platforms, as it’s unlikely for a user to switch countries within minutes.

Nomads Den’s Solution

Our priority is to offer reliable connectivity. Given the strong performance of our fiber connection, we’ll use Starlink as a backup, thus avoiding daily POP issues while ensuring connectivity if the Telkom connection drops.

VPN Solution

Configuring a VPN on your network could allow all traffic to come from the same POP. We don’t have experience yet in how fast and stable this would be, and if it would solve all issues, but it could be a strong move here. 

Final Thoughts

Getting Starlink in South Africa is already a complex process. Make sure you’re aware of these POP-related challenges before committing. We hope that Starlink will soon offer local South African POPs to resolve these issues. Until then, consider these factors carefully in your decision-making process.

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