Amazon reveals antennas for its Kuiper satellite network – GeekWire
After years of development, Amazon is showing off the antennas it plans to use for its Project Kuiper satellite broadband network – and plans to start offering a beta service to wholesale customers next year.
The largest antenna for enterprise customers is about the size of a coffee table. Designed for home use, the antenna is the size of a vinyl record album sleeve and should cost around $400. The smallest antenna still under development is only slightly larger than an e-book reader.
“I’d be remiss if I didn’t compare it to a Kindle here,” said Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, who helpfully made the comparison today during the big reveal at the Satellite 2023 conference in Washington. direct current
Amazon has yet to launch any of the 3,236 satellites for the constellation it plans to operate in low-Earth orbit — and it’s a long way behind SpaceX, which says it already has more than a million customers for its Starlink broadband service. But Limp insisted that Amazon is poised to make rapid progress over the next year.
He noted that the first two prototype Kuiper satellites have just been shipped to Florida in preparation for launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket this spring. And he said several satellites should be ready for launch by next year. The Kuiper operation is headquartered in Redmond, Wash. — not far from SpaceX’s satellite factory — and Amazon plans to start mass-producing satellites at a factory in Kirkland, Wash. by the end of the year.
Limp said Amazon is on track to launch half of the satellites for the Kuiper constellation by mid-2026, with up to 77 medium-to-heavy rockets reserved at ULA, as well as Arianespace and Blue Origin. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns Blue Origin as a separate, privately held space company.)
“For sure we will do 24 beta tests with big customers,” said Limp.
In a way, Limp’s fireside chat at Satellite 2023 was a coming-out party for Amazon’s Kuiper plans. “We haven’t been able to say that for the last four years, but you can consider us open for business,” he told the industry audience.
In a blog post, Amazon laid out the details for its satellite terminals. The standard customer antenna is less than 11 inches square and 1 inch thick. It weighs less than 5 pounds without a mounting bracket, but should be able to deliver network speeds of up to 400 megabits per second. The expected costs? Less than $400.
Kuiper’s largest antenna — intended for enterprise, government and telecom applications — will measure 19 by 30 inches and deliver speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, Amazon says.
The smallest antenna is still under development. “The team didn’t want it, but we’re going to do it anyway,” Limp joked as he pulled a prototype out of an Amazon shipping envelope. This ultra-compact antenna will weigh about a pound, offer speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, and cost less than the standard model.
Like SpaceX, Amazon aims to bring high-speed internet service to potentially hundreds of millions of underserved people in the US and around the world.
When asked how Amazon planned to take its Starlink Kuiper service off SpaceX, Limp cited Amazon’s track record of networking (via Amazon Web Services), customer service, and the ability to reduce costs at scale.
He also spoke about an Amazon-designed processing chip called Prometheus that will be integrated into all Kuiper’s network devices.
Prometheus is said to combine the processing power of a 5G modem chip, the ability of a cellular base station to handle massive streams of data traffic, and the ability of a microwave backhaul antenna to support point-to-point connections. The chip will enable Kuiper’s satellites and ground gateways to process up to a terabit of data per second.
“That’s about as close to magic as I know,” Limp said.
Amazon’s business model for Kuiper relies on synergies with the company’s other market offerings, including AWS’ relationships with companies that rely on broadband networks. Limp pointed out that networks are becoming increasingly cloud-centric, which adds to the strengths of AWS and Kuiper.
“When workloads are moving to the cloud, they’re in data centers, and Amazon has a large number of them,” he said. “By having these workloads close to the Kuiper network, we can do that [provide] more efficient. So when streaming a movie from Netflix or pulling Salesforce data from your company, these workloads are often closely aligned with Amazon Web Services. And our network will be essentially the same.”
Amazon has committed more than $10 billion to Project Kuiper over the coming years and intends to turn a profit once the network is complete. But Limp said Project Kuiper is about doing good and building a good business.
“When you see the Venn diagram intersect between a good deal and something that’s good for society, it puts a smile on your face,” he said. “And I think that’s a similar type of business. Of course we still have a lot to prove in the coming years. But if we’re successful, it can be very good big business for Amazon. And I think it can change the lives of many consumers. It can make businesses more productive and help governments in many ways. I guess that just puts me in my happy place.