Amazon.com said it will invest more than $10 billion to build a network of 3,236 satellites that will provide high-speed broadband internet services to people around the world.
Federal Communications Commission approved the plan called Project Kuiper for the constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that will compete with the Starlink network being built out by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
In 2018, the FCC voted to allow Space X, Telesat Canada and two other companies to roll out new satellite-based broadband services.
“A project of this scale requires significant effort and resources, and, due to the nature of LEO constellations, it is not the kind of initiative that can start small. You have to commit,” the company said in a blog post.
The project will also benefit wireless carriers deploying 5G and other wireless service to new regions, Amazon said.
By comparison, SpaceX has launched over 500 satellites of the roughly 12,000 expected for its Starlink constellation in low Earth orbit and plans to offer broadband service in the United States and Canada by the year’s end. The FCC approved SpaceX’s request in 2018.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell has said the Starlink constellation will cost the company roughly $10 billion.
Satellite technology can provide high-speed internet for people who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. The technology could also be a critical backstop when hurricanes or other natural disasters disrupt communication.
The FCC authorization requires Amazon to launch half of its satellites no later than mid-2026 and build out the rest of the constellation by mid-2029.
Amazon said it would begin to offer broadband service once 578 satellites are launched. Amazon plans to deploy Kuiper in five phases and will provide broadband services to unserved and underserved consumers, businesses in the United States, and global customers.”
It had 110 open positions for its Project Kuiper posted on its website Thursday. The satellites will be designed and tested at a new research and development facility opening in Redmond, Washington.
The FCC, which had approved SpaceX’s initial plans in March, further approved the company’s request on Thursday for access to additional frequencies and to operate an additional 7,500 satellites at very low-Earth altitudes.