Amazon is a household name. The E-Commerce and digital retail giant recently announced their plans to offer a high speed home Internet service under a subsidiary called Kuiper Systems, led by former SpaceX vice president Rajeev Badyal. Amazon’s current plans include launching 3,236 satellites into Earth’s low orbit for their network. With that many satellites, Amazon’s broadband services would cover about 95% of the world’s population, reaching even remote and rural areas.
Low orbit satellites are the key to offering low latency, widespread broadband. Since high speed cable Internet isn’t widely available to rural areas, new low orbit satellite systems are a viable substitute to reach more customers. FCC studies have shown that 21 million Americans lack fixed residential broadband while 33 million Americans don’t have access to high speed mobile services. Amazon aims to close that gap with their long term Kuiper project.
Amazon isn’t the only company looking to the sky, hoping to be the first pioneer in the broadband space race. The FCC has approved nearly 13,000 low orbit satellites, including 11,943 for Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. SpaceX recently launched two low orbit test satellites for home Internet services. Those tests have proven to be very successful as reports say SpaceX is planning to launch 4,425 satellites to power their Internet services. OneWeb is also in the race against Amazon and SpaceX with plans to launch 1050 satellites into orbit. OneWeb successfully launched six satellites in February and obtained a set of priority spectrum rights from the ITU in August.
Internet access is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity in households as more and more services become rooted in connectivity. While it’s too early to know the cost of Amazon’s home Internet service, we can expect that the competition between Amazon, SpaceX and OneWeb will drive costs down for a while. Given that Amazon is already a leader in Internet related products with a strong customer base, the company is posed to boost their business by providing the very devices they sell with broadband Internet access.
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