Here’s your first look at Project Kuiper’s low-cost customer terminals
Project Kuiper is Amazon’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network. Its mission is to bridge the digital divide by bringing fast, affordable broadband to communities underserved or underserved by traditional communications technologies.
To use the service, customers install an outdoor antenna — called a customer terminal — to communicate with satellites overhead. Traditionally, this equipment has been too large, complex and expensive for many customers, making it difficult for LEO constellations to meaningfully bridge the digital divide.
Project Kuiper plans to serve tens of millions of customers, so when we started the project we set ourselves an ambitious goal: to design a customer terminal that would cost less than $500 to build. Project Kuiper engineers reached this milestone in 2020 and invented a new antenna architecture that was smaller and lighter than conventional designs. Since then, the team has continuously innovated to make their terminal designs even smaller, more affordable, and more powerful.
Amazon recently presented the results of this work. Learn more about the small, powerful antennas below – and the technology behind them.
Multiple customer terminal designs
At a satellite industry conference in Washington, DC, Amazon gave a first look at three engineering models that will anchor its customer terminal portfolio:
An affordable, high-performance design for home and small business users:
Project Kuiper’s standard customer terminal is less than 11 inches square and 1 inch thick. It weighs less than five pounds without its mount. Despite this modest footprint, the device will be one of the most powerful commercially available customer terminals of its size, delivering speeds of up to 400 megabits per second (Mbps). Amazon expects to produce these terminals for under $400 each.
A ultra-compact design to connect even more customers: A 7-inch square design will be Project Kuiper’s smallest and most affordable customer terminal. Weighing just 1 pound and speeds up to 100Mbps, its portability and affordability will create opportunities to serve even more customers around the world. This design connects residential customers who need an even more cost-effective model, as well as government and enterprise customers pursuing applications such as ground mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT).
A High bandwidth design for the highest demands: Project Kuiper’s largest and most powerful model is designed for enterprise, government and telecom applications that require even more bandwidth. The device measures 19 inches by 30 inches and delivers speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).
“Our goal with Project Kuiper is not only to connect unserved and underserved communities, but also to inspire them with the quality, reliability and value of their service,” said Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology at Amazon at Project Kuiper. “From day one, every technology and business decision we’ve made has focused on what provides the best experience for diverse customers around the world, and our customer terminal offering reflects those decisions.”
Powered by custom chips designed by Amazon
Project Kuiper customer terminals are powered by an Amazon-designed baseband chip codenamed Prometheus. Prometheus combines the processing power of a 5G modem chip found in modern smartphones, the ability of a cellular base station to handle traffic from thousands of customers simultaneously, and the ability of a microwave backhaul antenna to provide high-performance point-to-point connections support – and it packs all of that into a single custom chip.
In addition to being used in Project Kuiper’s customer terminals, Prometheus is also used in Project Kuiper’s satellites and ground gateway antennas, allowing the system to handle up to 1 terabit per second (Tbps) of traffic onboard each satellite.
Preparing to offer commercial services
Amazon has built and shipped hundreds of millions of devices for customers, including best-selling, low-cost products like the Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick. Project Kuiper applies this experience to the design and production processes of its customer terminals, and the team is already scaling its infrastructure in anticipation of building tens of millions of units for customers.
Project Kuiper is also preparing for deployment first two prototype satellites on the maiden flight of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket. The upcoming mission will help Project Kuiper’s engineers gather real-world data on how systems work in space and let them test the entire end-to-end communications network. In parallel, Project Kuiper is scaling operations in preparation for offering commercial services. The team has recently started development of a dedicated satellite production facility in Kirkland, Wash. and expects to begin mass production of satellites by the end of 2023. Project Kuiper expects to launch the first production satellites in the first half of 2024 and plans to give its earliest customers access to the service from the end of this year.
Find out more about the Kuiper project.