Starlink does not intend to transmit the internet from space to your home. Starlink began sending satellites into orbit in 2019 in order to give consumers more accessible connectivity. Elon Musk owns the network, which is run by SpaceX, another of the billionaire’s firms.
But Musk isn’t the only one exploring this area. Amazon is also working on a satellite broadband service called Project Kuiper. So, what exactly is Project Kuiper, and is it superior to Starlink?
What Exactly Is Project Kuiper?
Amazon subsidiary Kuiper Systems LLC started project Kuiper. Rajeev Badyal, a former vice president of SpaceX’s Starlink—who was dismissed in 2018—founded Kuiper Systems LLC in 2019, the same year Amazon unveiled Project Kuiper.
According to an Amazon blog post, the purpose of Project Kuiper is to make the internet more accessible and inexpensive to “unserved and underprivileged regions throughout the world.” Project Kuiper will launch 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) to create a global network. Kuiper Systems LLC and Amazon are also aiming to deliver high-speed broadband with reduced latency.
It has been verified that Project Kuiper will be available to Indian residents as well as those residing in the United States. Amazon has not yet announced an official list of nations, although it is widely assumed that Asia-Pacific countries would be among the project’s focus points. Kuiper will be available to individuals, hospitals, schools, and corporations.
At that time, Amazon has pledged to invest more than $10 billion in Project Kuiper by 2020, which will also include the development of on-ground communication bases and client terminals. Amazon now conducts research and development at a huge research facility in Washington, D.C.
However, Project Kuiper is not completely isolated from the rest of Amazon. Amazon Web Services, for example, will be utilized to offer networking and infrastructure for the program.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized Project Kuiper’s intentions to launch 3,236 low-Earth orbit satellites in 2021. This provided Amazon with the green light to proceed with the initiative.
Amazon is collaborating with a number of launch services to support the launch of these satellites, including the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket, Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rocket, and a New Glenn rocket developed by Blue Origin (founded by Jeff Bezos).
The Kuiper Project Controversy
Amazon is no new to criticism and controversy, and Project Kuiper is no exception. For example, multiple news outlets reported in 2019 that Amazon had reportedly petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to disregard some laws that other firms, such as SpaceX, were required to obey.
Amazon was allegedly seeking these waivers to sidestep restrictions about interference issues and to avoid having to supply internet to the US state of Alaska, whose location was purportedly too difficult to service.
When Will the Kuiper Project Satellites Launch?
Project Kuiper has generated a lot of buzzes, but its satellite system is almost ready to launch in the end of 2022. So, when will Project Kuiper go live, and what steps must be taken first?
Prototype satellites must be launched to test the hardware and its capabilities before Amazon can create the real Project Kuiper constellation. Amazon plans to debut its first prototypes in early 2023, though no specific dates have been specified.
But we do know that the initial prototypes—Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2—will be launched from Florida’s well-known Cape Canaveral Space Force Station utilizing ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket. These prototypes are expected to be finished in late 2022. According to another Amazon blog post, ULA alone will support 47 Project Kuiper launches.
Furthermore, Project Kuiper’s team has a lot of work ahead of them if they want to launch a full constellation. Building 3,236 satellites will be a significant undertaking, and multiple satellites will be required to meet Amazon’s goal of launching half of the constellation by mid-2026. So there’s no doubt that the Project Kuiper team is taking on a massive task.
With half of the Kuiper satellites scheduled to launch by 2026, Amazon must complete its whole constellation by 2029 in order to maintain its FCC license. However, it is impossible to predict what factors may cause delays in such a large project.
One more question: is Project Kuiper superior to Starlink?
Starlink vs. Project Kuiper
Project Kuiper will undoubtedly compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink. Both Project Kuiper and Starlink are focused on bringing fast internet to a variety of countries, although the two efforts differ in several ways.
For starters, Starlink launches significantly more satellites than Amazon. The Starlink constellation will include 12,000 satellites (as permitted by the FCC), but Project Kuiper will have just 3,236.
We can’t compare the prices of Starlink with Project Kuiper broadband right now because the latter hasn’t produced a pricing list. However, if Kuiper is priced similarly to Starlink (a $99 deposit, $599 setup cost, and a $110 monthly bill), then both will be pricey alternatives when compared to other broadband providers. Unfortunately, the hubs’ hardware cannot be compared because Kuiper has not yet provided any information on this.
Amazon has stated that it will endeavor to make its internet service as accessible as possible, but we have no idea what this entails in terms of specific rates. However, the corporation has already delivered low-cost tech goods, such as the Echo, so the Project Kuiper costs may be unexpectedly inexpensive.
In terms of speed, we know that Starlink’s download speeds typically vary between 50 and 200 Mbps, with premium users supposedly receiving up to 500 Mbps. Amazon, on the other hand, claims that Project Kuiper will have a top speed of 400Mbps. So, while Starlink appears to be the clear winner here, both systems appear to be capable of providing extraordinarily fast broadband.
Overall, it’s too soon to tell if Project Kuiper will outperform Starlink. At the time of writing, Starlink’s satellite network was far from complete, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper hadn’t yet launched its prototype satellites, so comprehensive comparisons are still to come.
Will Amazon Be Able to Compete with Starlink?
At the time of writing, comparing the quality, cost, and accessibility of these two services was difficult. While Starlink has launched hundreds of satellites, its constellation still has a long way to go, and Project Kuiper remains in its early phases. As a result, we may have to wait a few years, if not longer, before we can thoroughly compare these two internet providers.