Kuiper internet network, Amazon's answer to Starlink, begins testing in space
Amazon launched its first two test satellites for its planned Kuiper internet network on Friday, a major step in the company's ambitions to provide broadband internet globally and compete with SpaceX's Starlink network.
The satellites were launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Amazon has not released many details about the satellites, but they were built at its satellite plant in Redmond, Washington.
Amazon has vowed to invest $10 billion in the Kuiper project, which was announced in 2019. The company plans to deploy 3,236 satellites in low-Earth orbit, and it is required by the US Federal Communications Commission to deploy half of the constellation by 2026.
The market for broadband internet service from low-Earth orbiting satellites is expected to be worth tens of billions of dollars in the next decade. Amazon's other rivals in the space include Canada's Telesat and French satellite firm Eutelsat's OneWeb.
Amazon plans to target both individual consumers and enterprise customers with Kuiper. The company has not yet announced prices, but it has said that it will build consumer terminals at a cost of $400 each. SpaceX's consumer Starlink terminals are priced at $599 each.
To deploy the rest of the Kuiper network, Amazon has announced a bulk launch deal for 83 launches from various rocket companies, including Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, ULA, and Europe's Arianespace.
The launch of the first Kuiper test satellites is a significant milestone for Amazon, but the company still has a long way to go before it can begin offering commercial service. SpaceX, on the other hand, already has nearly 5,000 Starlink satellites in orbit and is offering commercial service in several countries.
It will be interesting to see how Amazon and SpaceX compete in the global satellite internet market. Both companies have deep pockets and are committed to their respective projects. However, SpaceX has a significant head start, and it remains to be seen whether Amazon can catch up.