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Amazon invests $ 10 billion to compete with SpaceX in satellite broadband

Illustration of the Earth with lines connecting cities to represent a global network.

Getty Image Yuichiro Chino

Amazon has received approval from the United States to launch 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit for the planned broadband service Project Kuiper.

A Federal Communications Commission ruling authorizing Amazon̵

7;s application was released on Thursday. Amazon said in a blog post that it would invest more than $ 10 billion in the project.

“This investment will create jobs and infrastructure in the United States, build and scale our terrestrial network, accelerate satellite testing and production, and provide us with an accessible terminal for customers that will provide fast, reliable broadband access to communities around the world.” , Amazon said. Amazon will target areas without good Internet service and said that “Project Kuiper will deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband service in places beyond the reach of traditional fiber or wireless networks.”

The planned satellites will orbit at altitudes of 590km, 610km and 630km, allowing latencies far lower than traditional satellite services that use geosynchronous orbits of more than 35,000km. This is similar to Starlink from SpaceX, but SpaceX is much further away as it has released about 600 satellites and is preparing to launch beta tests with customers.

The service will start after the launch of 578 satellites

FCC rules give Amazon six years to launch and operate 50 percent of licensed satellites, ending July 30, 2026. Amazon will have to launch the remaining licensed satellites by July 30, 2029.

Amazon plans to offer broadband to customers “after the launch of the first 578 satellites,” the FCC said. Amazon has not said when the service will be available to customers.

According to FCC approval, Amazon’s plan “will provide[e] continuous coverage for customers at approximately 56 ° north latitude and 56 ° south latitude, thus serving the neighboring United States, Hawaii, U.S. territories and other regions of the world. “The plan requires the use of the frequencies 17.7-18.6 GHz and 18.8-20.2 GHz for space-to-Earth communication and 27.5-30.0 GHz for space-to-Earth transmission. The FCC said it granted the license because it would ‘promote the public interest by authorizing a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed broadband for consumers, government and business. “

Amazon applied for the FCC in July 2019 – more details on Amazon’s plan are available in our app history.

FCC approval includes requirements to minimize orbital debris and collision risk, prevent harmful interference, spectrum sharing, and power limitations. Amazon’s design of the Kuiper satellites has not been completed, so the company will need another FCC approval after presenting a final plan to reduce orbital debris, collision risk and “accident risk of re-entry.” FCC approval is also conditional on Amazon receiving a “favorable” rating from the International Telecommunication Union to show compliance with power limits.

In addition to SpaceX, Amazon’s Kuiper project would potentially face low-ground satellite competition from OneWeb, which filed for bankruptcy in late March. On July 3, OneWeb agreed to sell the business to a consortium that included the UK government and Bharti Global Limited. The UK government, which is investing $ 500 million, said: “The deal will enable the company to complete the construction of a global satellite constellation that will provide better broadband and other services to countries around the world.” OneWeb also has an investment from Hughes that operates geosynchronous satellites.

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