News

Verizon orders cellular backhaul package from Amazon

hans-vestberg.jpg

Verizon is poised to become the anchor tenant of Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite network, with a deal to use it for 4G and 5G distribution.

Project Kuiper – Amazon’s competitor to OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink – aims to have 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO).

Project Kuiper – which has yet to launch its first satellite – and Verizon said this week that they have “begun to develop technical specifications and define preliminary commercial models for a range of connectivity services for US consumers and global enterprise customers operating in rural and remote locations around the world”.

Verizon chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg (pictured) said: “Project Kuiper offers flexibility and unique capabilities for a LEO satellite system, and we’re excited about the prospect of adding a complementary connectivity layer to our existing partnership with Amazon. We know the future will be built on our leading 5G network, designed for mobility, fixed wireless access and real-time cloud compute.”

The deal, once it goes into operation, is likely to give Verizon an alternative backhaul solution to its copper and fibre deals with wholesale operators across the US, especially in rural areas.

Amazon plans to launch the satellites via nine Atlas 5 rockets. Under the terms of its July 2020 licence from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it must deploy half of the satellites by July 2026 and all of them by July 2029 – so Verizon is not ordering the services to be delivered overnight on Amazon Prime.

Amazon and Verizon said the network “will serve individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses and other organizations operating in places where internet access is limited or unavailable”. Amazon says it has committed an initial $10 billion to the programme.

Vestberg indicated in his comments that Verizon aims to use the Kuiper satellites to expand its market globally. He said: “Today’s announcement will help us explore ways to … accelerate the benefits and innovation of wireless connectivity, helping benefit our customers on both a global and local scale.”

But the initial target is “expanding Verizon data networks using cellular backhaul solutions from Project Kuiper”, said the two companies, “working together to define technical requirements to help extend fixed wireless coverage to rural and remote communities across the United States”.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said that the company was looking for other cellular operators – much as OneWeb is targeting cellular backhaul in Africa, India and elsewhere. “We look forward to partnering with companies and organizations around the world who share this commitment,” said Jassy.

The two companies will also start work on designing what they called “new connectivity solutions across a range of domestic and global industries, from agriculture and energy to manufacturing and transportation”.

 Project Kuiper is named after Dutch planetary scientist Gerard Kuiper (1905-1973).