Amazon.com Inc. said on Thursday it would spend more than $10 billion to develop a 3,236 satellite network that will offer high-speed broadband internet connectivity to people around the world who lack such connections.
The announcement follows the acceptance of the program, dubbed “Project Kuiper” by the Federal Communications Commission, for the constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that will compete with the Starlink network being set up by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. It also falls on Amazon’s heels, reporting the largest profit in its 26-year existence.
“A project of this size needs significant effort and money, and it is not the kind of initiative that can start small because of the complexity of the LEO constellations. You have to commit,’ said the organization in a blog post.
Wireless providers bringing 5 G and other wireless networks to new areas would also benefit from the initiative, Amazon said.
By contrast, SpaceX has launched over 500 of the approximately 12,000 satellites planned for its low Earth orbit Starlink constellation, with plans to provide broadband coverage in the United States and Canada by the end of the year. In 2018 the FCC approved the request for SpaceX.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, who floated the possibility of spinning Starlink off for an IPO in the coming years in February, said the Starlink system would cost around $10 billion to the corporation.
Despite being incredibly costly to install, satellite infrastructure will provide high-speed communication for people living in remote or hard-to-serve areas where fiber optic cables and cell towers are not reached. The technology could also provide a critical backstop when communication is disrupted by hurricanes or other natural disasters.
The FCC permit, adopted with a 5-0 vote, allows Amazon to launch half of its satellites by mid-2026 at the latest and set up the remainder of the constellation by mid-2029.
Amazon said it’d start providing broadband service once 578 satellites have been deployed.
It had 110 open positions posted on its website on Thursday, for its “Project Kuiper.” The satellites are to be planned and tested at the launch of a new research and development facility in Redmond, Washington.