Amazon gets approval for Internet-beaming satellites

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved Amazon’s plans to launch Internet-beaming satellites into Earth’s orbit.

Dubbed Project Kuiper, the initiative aims to build and launch a constellation of 3,236 of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide reliable, affordable broadband service to unserved and underserved communities around the world.

The FCC’s authorisation means that Amazon will be allowed to beam Internet services in the United States. The license is subject to Amazon launching half of the constellation by 2026, and the remaining number by 2029.

The first batch comprises 578 satellites that will be able to beam Internet service in two horizontal coverage bands between latitudes of 39 degrees north and 56 degrees north, as well as 39 degrees south to 56 degrees south.

Although Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns rocket company Blue Origin, it will have to compete with other launch providers to send the satellites into orbit.

Following the announcement, Amazon said it will invest $10 billion in the project to meet these deadlines.

“Project Kuiper will deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband service to places beyond the reach of traditional fibre or wireless networks,” Amazon said.

“Kuiper will serve individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses and other organisations operating in places without reliable broadband,” it added.

Taking on Starlink

Amazon is one of several companies planning to provide improved satellite-based broadband connectivity across the globe.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX was previously granted approval for launching 12,000 satellites for its Starlink project.

For phase 1 of Starlink, the company plans to have a constellation 1,584 LEO satellites at 550km above Earth.

540 of these satellites have already been put into orbit, and SpaceX is expected to launch the private beta for the service in the US summer, with applicants currently able to sign up for early access by providing their full addresses.

The company has previously said it aims to have the service available in the US and Canada by 2020, and the majority of regions across the world by the end of 2021.

Satellite broadband on the rise

South African ISP Vox – who provides satellite Internet connectivity through current services – previously told MyBroadband projects like Starlink and Kuiper will help increase satellite broadband connectivity’s potential to compete with mobile and fixed-line Internet.

According to Vox’s Head of Wireless Jacques Visser, the launch of additional Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will offer attractive pricing for broadband and IoT services.

“High-throughput satellites positioned in MEO and LEO stationary will become operational in the next 12 to 24 months.  These services will play an important role in under-serviced areas, as well as IoT,” Visser said.

“It is expected that LEO satellite services will compete with terrestrial services from a pricing point of view,” he noted.

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Amazon gets approval for Internet-beaming satellites