The FCC has approved Amazon’s application to provide satellite broadband using a fleet of 3,236 non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellites. According to an Amazon filing with the FCC, the project, known as Kuiper, will be able to serve multiple world regions, including all the U.S. except portions of Alaska. Amazon Kuiper approval came in the form of an FCC order adopted Wednesday and released yesterday.
“We conclude that grant of Kuiper’s application would advance the public interest by authorizing a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed broadband service to consumers, government, and businesses,” said the FCC in the order.
In a blog post, Amazon said it will invest $10 billion in Project Kuiper. The blog post also outlines a potential application of backhauling 4G and 5G wireless traffic.
Amazon Kuiper Approval
Amazon is one of several companies that have made NGSO network plans with the goal of serving remote areas that lack terrestrial broadband service. Perhaps the highest profile of these projects is Starlink from SpaceX, the Elon Musk company that also has been launching rockets into space. SpaceX already has launched some of its satellites, and several other companies also have gained FCC authorization for NGSO deployments.
Operators of NGSO satellite systems expect to overcome a key drawback to traditional geostationary satellite broadband – high latency. Because NGSO satellites are closer to earth, there should be less lag time between when signals are sent and received.
Launching so many satellites may sound risky, and according to one analysis, it is. According to CoBank, a lender that focuses on rural infrastructure, risks include collisions with space debris, as well as bankruptcy due to the loss of a key investor – although the latter issue would not appear to be a concern for Amazon.
CoBank sees Amazon having an edge in the NGSO broadband market – in part because the company has access to capital and in part because the company will be able to bundle broadband with other services such as Amazon Web Services or a subscription to Amazon Prime.
The FCC order granting Amazon Kuiper approval notes that Amazon expects to deploy the system in five phases, with service beginning once the first 578 satellites are launched.