Previous Coverage about low-earth-orbit satellite Internet
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has on the 21 April 2021 made his Project Kuiper low-earth-orbit satellite effort ready to launch. This, like OneWeb, will be in competition to the SpaceX Starlink low-earth-orbit satellite effort driven by Elon Musk of Tesla fame.
This will be about providing affordable reliable credible satellite broadband Internet service primarily to rural and regional areas.
Initially the satellites will be launched using Atlas V rockets owned by the United Launch Alliance that is established by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But Amazon are wanting to work with other space-tech consortia like Arianespace, Bezos’s own Blue Origin company or Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.
The Kuiper constellation consists of 3236 satellites that work at an orbit of 590-630 km. The customer’s installation for the Kuiper setup will be based around a 12” flat-dish antenna, something equivalent to the size of an LP vinyl record. It will be about making such equipment affordable and portable for most users.
But Musk’s Starlink service has a head start with coverage of the Earth, Earth-station installations and service licensing in a significant number of countries. As well Starlink even has got going with seeking regulatory approval for mobile equipment intended to be installed in road and rail vehicles, maritime vessels and aircraft.
But to achieve the desireable amount of competition for the satellite Internet service, there will be a significant number of hurdles. There will be the launch frequency issue i.e. how frequently Jeff Bezos can get satellites in to space to cover the Earth. There is also the issue of establishing ground stations and licensing end-user device designs and legitimately providing service in many jurisdictions. It also includes the design and licensing of mobile stations for installation on vehicles, vessels and aircraft to allow use of Kuiper on the move.
Both the tech visionaries are in a bitter fight to the end with the FCC regarding licensing of satellites and similar technology. But when in full flight, expect competitive service and low prices for broadband at your bush block.
I do still see a significant number of questions come about regarding low-earth-orbit satellite broadband in its current form. Firstly, there needs to be a wide variety of customer equipment that suits different use cases, such as satellite modems that work with broadband routers that have Ethernet WAN connections,
There will have to be the issue of assuring the legitimacy of satellite-broadband service within peri-urban rural areas. These are the rural areas that form the hinterland of a city or large town and some of these areas do not have access to broadband service of a decent standard due to the settlements being relatively sparse. Here, if there is a requirement to assure “rural-only” service for a satellite-broadband service, the peri-urban areas could be deemed legitimate based on the absence of wired or terrestrial wireless broadband service providing a minimum bandwidth.
Similarly there will be the issue of facilitating mobile and portable satellite broadband services whether to serve campers or to serve airlines offering inflight Wi-Fi. For countries with international land borders or airlines and ships that offer international transport, it will encompass providing mobile satellite broadband on an international form.
But what I see of the Starlink and Kuiper efforts is that they are about providing decent and affordable broadband service to rural and remote areas of the world. This year could effectively be the year of a race for this goal.