The FCC this week unanimously voted to approve Amazon’s plan to deploy 3,236 satellites as part of its Project Kuiper to deliver satellite-based broadband services across the U.S.
Amazon announced the project last spring to build a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to serve unserved and underserved communities around the world. It’s similar to the ambitions of SpaceX with its Starlink service and OneWeb, which is undergoing bankruptcy restructuring.
Amazon said in a blog post that it will invest more than $10 billion in Project Kuiper to build and scale the ground network, as well as for satellite testing and manufacturing.
“We have heard so many stories lately about people who are unable to do their job or complete schoolwork because they don’t have reliable internet at home,” said Amazon SVP Dave Limp in a statement. “There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that.”
Project Kuiper will deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband service to places beyond the reach of traditional fiber or wireless networks, according to Amazon. The plan is to serve individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses and other organizations operating in places without reliable broadband.
Amazon also expects Project Kuiper will provide backhaul solutions for wireless carriers, extending LTE and 5G service to new regions in the U.S. and around the world.
According to the FCC (PDF), the Kuiper system will be deployed in five phases, with service beginning once the first 578 satellites are launched. It will use the following frequencies: 17.7-18.6 GHz (space-to-Earth), 18.8-20.2 GHz (space-to-Earth), and 27.5-30.0 GHz (Earth-to-space).
Kuiper’s system will include gateway earth stations, customer terminals, software-defined network and satellite control functionality, satellite operations centers, telemetry, tracking, and command earth stations and other technologies, according to the FCC.
Competition in the sky
Meanwhile, SpaceX received FCC approval two years ago to launch thousands of satellites. More recently, it’s been battling license holders in the 12 GHz band who claim its modification plans would impair the Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) operating in the band. The MVDDS community, which includes Dish Network and RS Access, argue that the rules for the 12 GHz band should be changed to allow it to be used for 5G services.
OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March and earlier this month, the U.K. government and Bharti Global said they would basically bail it out. The U.K. will provide $500 million and take an equity share in OneWeb. Bharti Global will kick in another $500 million so that OneWeb can get back on track with its constellation.