Verizon plans to use low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband connectivity from Amazon Project Kuiper to provide backhaul for 5G service in rural areas. Initially, the focus will be on “expanding Verizon data networks using cellular backhaul solutions from Project Kuiper,” Verizon said.
Longer term, Amazon and Verizon engineering teams are “working together to define technical requirements to help extend fixed wireless coverage to rural and remote communities across the United States.”
Amazon has committed $10 billion toward Project Kuiper, which is slated to eventually include a constellation of 3,236 satellites. The company is one of several, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, that are planning LEO deployments to support lower-latency broadband.
SpaceX has somewhat of a head start, having already launched service in some areas and having tentatively won nearly $1 billion in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, which awarded funding to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to unserved rural areas to the company that committed to deploying service for the lowest level of government support.
The Verizon deal could give Amazon a big boost on the LEO front. Verizon and Amazon already have pursued a range of initiatives with one another, including integrating Verizon’s 5G Edge multi-access edge computing (MEC) offering with AWS Wavelength. Through that deal, the companies are embedding AWS compute and storage services in Verizon-operated data centers at the edge of the provider’s 5G networks. The goal is to support applications requiring cloud resources with single-digit millisecond latencies.
Today’s press release highlights several industries that could benefit from that type of connectivity in combination with 5G and LEO communications, including manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture. LEO and 5G communications could be particularly important for the latter industry as farmers and ranchers pursue precision agriculture.
“Smart farms, bringing technology to agriculture, and connecting the last mile of rural America will be at the forefront of helping our industry to provide food for billions around the globe,” said Betsy Huber, president of agricultural association The National Grange, in today’s press release. “Ensuring connectivity in rural areas will be key to making these endeavors a success.”
A Verizon 5G, Project Kuiper LEO fixed wireless offering could be a big boost for rural areas. Verizon has a considerable amount of mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum that can support high-speed 5G services and the company has several years of experience in offering fixed 5G. Using Project Kuiper for backhaul could expedite the process of making 5G fixed wireless available in rural areas.