Amazon has been beefing up its Project Kuiper with the news that it has acquired a team of employees from Facebook.

According to the Information, Amazon acquired a team of more than a dozen wireless internet experts from Facebook for an undisclosed sum of money.

The Facebook staff reported joined Amazon in April this year to help it develop Project Kuiper, its scheme to deliver internet connectivity from low Earth orbit satellites.

Project Kuiper

It is understood the former Facebook staff are based in the Los Angeles region, and included physicists as well as optical, prototyping, mechanical and software engineers who had previously worked on aeronautical systems and wireless networks, according to their respective LinkedIn pages.

A Facebook spokesperson reportedly confirmed the staff transfer to The Information.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper was established in 2019, and seeks to deliver internet connectivity by 2029 via 3,236 satellites in low-earth orbit.

In July 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted Amazon approval to deploy and operate its constellation of satellites for services in the United States, before it is scaled up to deliver connectivity in developing parts of the globe.

The Information reports that Amazon is building a lab in Redmond, WA, and that it currently has around 500 employees working on its satellite internet project.

Amazon will be going up against a number of competing services from rivals, most notably Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its Starlink service, and OneWeb, which is part owned by the British government among others.

Additional satellite internet players include Kepler, LeoSat and Telesat Canada.

Facebook exit

The acquisition of Facebook’s staff signals the ending of the social networking giant’s ambitions of utilising its own satellites to deliver internet connectivity to remote areas.

Back in 2014 Facebook began investigating the possible use of drones, satellites and lasers to beam the Internet to the parts of the world without Internet access.

That same year Facebook spent $60m purchasing pioneering firm Titan Aerospace, whose drones could fly at up to 90,000 feet to beam an Internet signal to the ground below.

Facebook however shut down that drone initiative in 2018.

But Facebook had another plan, after it had launched the Internet.org scheme back in August 2013, with the aim to connect the unconnected parts of the world to the Internet using third party platforms.

The Internet.org project has been rolled out to 24 countries so far including India, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Columbia, among others.

As of April 2018, 100 million people were using internet.org

Mark Zuckerberg in April 2015 even touted that the scheme could come to Europe.

However Internet.org has been criticised for allegedly violating net neutrality, and by hand-picking internet services that are included.

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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