FCC says yes to Amazon’s 3,236 low-orbit communications satellites

Amazon project Kuiper.jpg

The US regulator has approved Amazon’s plan to launch 3,236 low-orbit satellites to create a new broadband telecoms network.

Amazon says it plans to spend $10 billion on Project Kuiper, which will have low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites in 98 orbital planes at altitudes of 590km, 610km, and 630km – low orbits that will deliver round-trip delays of just 4ms.

Dave Limp, Amazon senior vice president, said: “There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved Amazon’s proposals, with all five commissioners voting in favour.

Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, said: “LEO-based broadband systems like Project Kuiper present a huge number of challenges, and we have assembled a world-class team of engineers and scientists who are committed to delivering on our vision for Project Kuiper and keeping space a safe, sustainable environment for everyone.”

According to the FCC, the project “will be capable of providing continuous coverage to customers within approximately 56°N and 56°S latitude, thereby serving the contiguous United States, Hawaii, US territories and other world regions”.

The US state of Alaska will be entirely outside the coverage region, because it is too far north. So will much of Scandinavia and northern Russia.

In the south, only Antarctica and the very southern tip of South America will be outside Project Kuiper’s reach.

Amazon said that Project Kuiper “will deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband service to places beyond the reach of traditional fibre or wireless networks … Project Kuiper will serve individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses and other organisations operating in places without reliable broadband.”