Amazon Gains FCC Approval For $10 Billion Broadband Satellite Project

Amazon’s Project Kuiper has won official approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States to build a $10 billion broadband satellite network.

The news was revealed when the FCC released documents on Thursday, that authorised Amazon’s request to construct a network of more than 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit.

This will put the venture owned by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, into direct competition with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and OneWeb, which had collapsed during the Coronavirus pandemic but which earlier this month was jointly purchased by the British government and Bharti Global Limited.

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos

FCC approval

“Specifically, we grant Kuiper’s application for authority to deploy and operate its NGSO FSS system in the 17.7-17.8 GHz, 17.8-18.6 GHz, 18.8-19.3 GHz, 19.3-19.7 GHz, 19.7-20.2 GHz, 27.5-28.6 GHz, 28.6-29.1 GHz, 29.1-29.5 GHz, and 29.5-30.0 GHz bands,” stated the FFC.

The US communications regulator said that it had addressed but dismissed concerns expressed by SES Americom and O3b (collectively SES), and another petition by Telesat Canada (Telesat), and the petitions to deny filed by Theia Holdings and WorldVu Satellites Limited.

“We conclude that grant of Kuiper’s application would advance the public interest by authorising a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed broadband service to consumers, government, and businesses,” it stated.

Amazon informed the FCC it intends to launch the 3,200 satellites in five phases and at three different altitudes, with the service becoming operational when the first wave of 578 satellites is in orbit.

Project Kuiper aims to deliver high-speed internet service to “unserved and underserved consumers” across much of the world, including the United States.

Heavy investment

“Last spring, we announced Project Kuiper, an initiative to build a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation capable of providing reliable, affordable broadband service to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” explained Amazon in a separate blog post.

“Today marked a key milestone for the project, with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granting Amazon approval by a 5-0 vote to deploy and operate our constellation of 3,236 satellites,” it said.

“A project of this scale requires significant effort and resources, and, due to the nature of LEO constellations, it is not the kind of initiative that can start small,” Amazon stated. “You have to commit. Amazon will invest more than $10 billion in Project Kuiper.”

“We have heard so many stories lately about people who are unable to do their job or complete schoolwork because they don’t have reliable internet at home,” said Dave Limp, senior VP at Amazon. “There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that.

“We appreciate the FCC’s unanimous, bipartisan support on this issue, and I want to thank Chairman Pai and the rest of the Commission for taking this important first step with us. We’re off to the races,” he said.

Amazon said that Project Kuiper will be designed and tested in its all-new research and development facility opening in Redmond, Washington.

Besides SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband network and OneWeb, additional players in this segment include Kepler, LeoSat and Telesat Canada.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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