kuiper

Can Amazon’s Kuiper compete with Starlink?

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Jeff Bezos’ Kuiper set to compete with SpaceX

Amazon Inc. is a multinational, multi billion dollar conglomerate, and it’s Kuiper division ise. At the time of writing this article, a single share of Amazon was trading at approximately $3,165. Jeff Bezos, Founder and current CEO and President of the company, is by far the richest man in the world. The businessman’s net worth is estimated at $181 billion. 

Needless to say, Amazon has its fingers in many different pies. E-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and AI. Its next objective has now been revealed: Satellite Internet broadband service.  

Kuiper to deploy more than 3,000 satellites 

On July 30, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved Amazon’s plans to build and deploy its internet satellite constellation.  

Five FCC commissioners unanimously voted to permit Amazon to launch the satellite constellation, dubbed Kuiper. It will consist of 3,236 internet-beaming satellites. A blog post published by Amazon states that the company will invest “more than $10 billion” in the project. The blog also mentioned the objective is to provide “affordable broadband service to unserved and underserved communities around the world.”

According to the approval document published by the FCC, Amazon also claimed that it needs to deploy 578 satellites in orbit in order to roll out its service. 

The company has not disclosed which launch providers it plans to use to deploy the satellites into orbit. One can assume, however, that they will be launched via Blue Origin, an aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos himself.

What does Kuiper’s approval spell for Starlink?  

Kuiper will now directly compete with Starlink as an Internet Service provider. From a purely financial standpoint, it undoubtedly has the resources to do so.

However, the FCC approval plan contains certain provisions that may hinder Amazon’s ability to truly compete with SpaceX’s project.

First of all, the company must launch half of the constellation by 2026 in order to retain its license. The remaining satellites that form the constellation must be launched by 2029. The design of its Kuiper satellites have not been finalized thus far. 

In contrast, SpaceX has already begun deploying its Starlink fleet since 2019. In 2018, it has received the approval by the FCC to deploy approximately 12,000 satellites into Low-Earth orbit by 2027. So far, SpaceX has deployed more than 530 satellites and stands to complete their tenth Starlink mission very soon. The company has also started recruiting beta testers, since it is aiming to roll out beta service in the U.S. and Canada by this month.

There is another twist as well. Amazon must still submit to the FCC a finalized plan for space debris mitigation. The Commission argued that the company did not “present specific information concerning some required elements” of its debris plan.

SpaceX, on the other hand, has already outlined a detailed plan for debris mitigation. Starlink satellites utilize a collision prediction system designed by the U.S. Department of Defense. This system allows the satellites to adjust their orbits in order to dodge collisions with any other satellites or spacecraft. 

In conclusion, it remains to be seen if Amazon will be able to compete with SpaceX as an ISP. 

Provided that SpaceX succeeds in rolling out a reliable, low-latency internet service starting this month, things are looking pretty bleak for Amazon. They will have missed out on a potentially highly lucrative market, currently estimated to be worth $1 trillion.  

If anything, this latest piece of news fuels an already simmerring rivalry between both Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. And from the looks of it, when it comes to Satellite Internet, Musk appears to be having the upper hand.

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