Future satellite communications for shipping received a boost at the end of July when Amazon secured US authorisation to invest up to US$10Bn in a new constellation
Amazon gained approval from the US Federal Communications Commission to build and launch the Kuiper low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation to deliver high-speed broadband worldwide.
This will see Amazon join SpaceX, OneWeb and Iridium in providing connectivity through LEO satellites.
These LEO constellations will deliver faster connectivity with lower latency to maritime, enabling real-time monitoring, video conferencing and remote control applications.
Iridium already has its Next constellation of 66 inter-connected LEO satellites, operating over L-band, in service, while SpaceX has more than 500 small broadband satellites in orbit in its Starlink constellation.
OneWeb’s drive to launch thousands of mini satellites into LEO were postponed after it went into bankruptcy protection in Q2 2020. But this project has been saved by the UK Government which plans to use the 74 satellites already in orbit and new OneWeb satellites for global positioning, among other services.
Amazon plans to build a constellation of 3,236 satellites. According to the FCC, it has until July 2026 to launch at least 50% of its satellites and until July 2029 to operate a full constellation. Amazon intends to work a lot faster than that to build its constellation.
“There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it does not exist at all. Kuiper will change that,” said Amazon senior vice president Dave Limp. “Our US$10Bn investment will help close this gap and create infrastructure.”
Project Kuiper will also provide backhaul solutions for wireless carriers extending 4G and 5G services to new regions.
Other major companies worldwide considering investment in LEO constellations include Viasat, Facebook Athena and Canada’s Telesat.