Amazon plans to deploy a satellite constellation with 3,236 satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) to provide high-speed broadband internet services to the unserved or underserved as part of an initiative called "Project Kuiper."
The project will be run by an Amazon subsidiary named Kuiper Systems LLC, according to paperwork filed with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The filing, made last month by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of Kuiper Systems, is a necessary step to move Project Kuiper forward. Amazon also has to win the assent of the FCC and regulators in other countries for the project.
The existence of this endeavor has long been the subject of speculation. Its confirmation will make Amazon the latest FAANG member to take its terrestrial internet ambitions into space. Facebook in July 2018 confirmed its plans to deploy its own internet satellite constellation.
The Facebook constellation will be run by a subsidiary named PointView Tech. Facebook is now developing a new satellite called "Athena" that can deliver data 10 times faster than SpaceX's Starlink satellites.
The Amazon Kuiper constellation, however, is dwarfed by that of SpaceX, whose Starlink internet satellite constellation will consist of some 12,000 satellites in LEO.
Amazon describes Project Kuiper as "a new initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world."
Amazon said this long-term project envisions serving tens of millions of people that lack basic access to broadband Internet. It confirms its intent to partner with companies "that share this common vision," a GeekWire report revealed.
Amazon's filings with the ITU "lay out a plan to deploy 3,236 satellites into LEO. The constellation will consist of 784 satellites at an altitude of 590 kilometers, 1,296 satellites at 610 km and 1,156 satellites in 630 km orbits."
Amazon said its Kuiper constellation will provide data coverage for spots on Earth ranging from 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south, an area encompassing 95 percent of the world's population.
Blue Origin, Bezos's spaceflight and space tourism company, might launch the Kuiper satellites into LEO, but Amazon said it will "look at all options," which may likely mean SpaceX.
Analysts say providing high-speed internet by satellite offers the highest profits in the short term while giving internet access to the remaining 3.8 billion people who don't have it.