Bezos Admits Amazon Broadband Satellite Network Will Cost Billions

The founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has opened up about his Blue Origin plan to deploy a 3,200-satellite network known as Project Kuiper.

Bezos was speaking on stage at Amazon’s re:Mars conference in Las Vegas, and at one stage an animal rights protestor came within feet of the world’s richest man, protesting about a chicken farm that supplies to Amazon.

The discussion comes after Elon Musk’s SpaceX company in May launched 60 “Starlink” satellites for the company’s low earth orbit-based broadband project. SpaceX intends to place a total of 12,000 satellites in orbit, which Musk hopes will generate $30bn in revenue annually.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos

Project Kuiper

Amazon’s re:MARS conference is designed to highlight the frontiers of Machine language, Automation, Robotics and Space.

It included a 30 minute conversation with Bezos, as well as a talk with actor and producer Robert Downey Jr, perhaps best known as ‘Ironman’ in the recent Marvel movies.

Earlier this week the conference revealed that Amazon intends to start drone deliveries “within months”.

When Bezos was asked about Amazon’s “big bet” going forward, he opened up about Amazon’s satellite-based broadband network (aka Project Kuiper), but didn’t make clear whether his Blue Origin space venture would launch the satellites.

“The goal here is broadband everywhere, but the very nature of [having] thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit is very different from geostationary satellites,” Bezos was quoted by Geekwire as saying. “You have equal broadband all over the surface of Earth. Not exactly equal, it tends to be a lot more concentrated toward the poles, unfortunately.

“But you end up servicing the whole world,” he said. “So it’s really good. By definition you end up accessing people who are ‘under-bandwidthed.’ Very rural areas, remote areas. And I think you can see going forward that internet, access to broadband is going to be very close to being a fundamental human need as we move forward.”

“So Project Kuiper has that,” said Bezos. “It’s also a very good business for Amazon because it’s a very high-capex [capital expenditure] undertaking. It’s multiple billions of dollars of capex. … Amazon is a large enough company now that we need to do things that, if they work, can actually move the needle.”

Other competition

Besides SpaceX’s Starlink, Project Kuiper is going to have other competition from the likes of Kepler, LeoSat and Telesat Canada.

One of the most immediate challenges however could be from British start-up OneWeb, which launched its first broadband satellites in February.

In March OneWeb said it had raised a total of $3.4 billion (£2.63bn) in private funding, paving the way for a series of monthly launches this autumn to build an initial network of 650 satellites operating at 1,200km.

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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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