Pakistan’s telecommunication regulatory body, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), is evaluating a technical plan submitted by Starlink, owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, to operate in the country. The plan has raised concerns among various stakeholders, including the PTA, which is analyzing the potential security risks of Starlink’s data hosting outside the country and its use of laser technology from satellite to satellite without Earth Gateways. The government of Pakistan is consulting with other relevant agencies, including SUPARCO, LEAs, and FAB, to evaluate Starlink’s technical and business plan.
Starlink Internet Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd has applied for a Long Distance and International (LDI) license for Pakistan, along with 14 Local Loop (LL) licenses for all telecom regions of the country. Unlike traditional satellites operating in Pakistan’s Geo Stationary Orbit (GSO), Starlink operates in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), providing low-latency connectivity, communicating with many ground stations at a time, and using satellite-to-satellite connectivity via laser technology to expand its footprint in all areas.
During a Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication meeting, PTA officials briefed the committee on the Starlink issue, stating that the technology is still in its early stages and further progress could not be made due to some security concerns. A sub-committee was formed to settle the matter and bring it to a logical end.
Despite concerns about Starlink’s security, some members of the committee, including Senator Afnanullah Khan, believe the technology is an excellent way to provide internet services in remote areas and should not be ignored solely due to security concerns. However, officials revealed that Starlink’s current beta version is not fully secure, and there have been reports of its use in drone attacks in Ukraine and Afghanistan.