Amazon Seeks Permission to Launch 3,236 Internet Satellites

Amazon wants the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to give it the go-ahead to launch 3,236 satellites that would be used to establish a globe-spanning internet network. Seeking Alpha reported that Amazon expects “to offer service to tens of millions of underserved customers around the world” via the network, which the company is developing under the code-name Project Kuiper.

News of Project Kuiper broke in April, when Amazon uncharacteristically confirmed its work on the project to GeekWire. The company often declines to comment on reports concerning its plans; it seems the development of thousands of internet-providing satellites is the exception. The company had yet to seek FCC approval for the project, though, which is what Seeking Alpha reported today.

Continue Reading HERE. The article concludes:

Project Kuiper could potentially bring Amazon closer to Blue Origin, the space exploration company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, should they collaborate on the satellite network. Even if the companies don’t, connecting more people to the Internet could be a boon for Amazon. The company wouldn’t necessarily have to convince those people to buy things from its marketplace, either, thanks to the variety of digital services it offers.

[Emphasis added].  Amazon is in the cloud services business with satellite control terminals co-located with its server farms. Amazon will have end-to-end data collection and processing capacity over network faster than fiber optics.

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Jeff Bezos Explains Amazon’s Bet on Project Kuiper Satellites

Geek Wire has the details

For the first time in public, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained the rationale for his risky Project Kuiper satellite broadband venture, during a fireside chat that was interrupted when an animal rights activist jumped on stage.

[. . .]

When Freshwater asked Bezos to name a “big bet” that Amazon has taken recently, he focused on Project Kuiper, the plan to put more than 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit for global broadband coverage. The project came to light in April, and seems likely to be based in Bellevue, Wash. Here’s how Bezos explained his bet:

“The goal here is broadband everywhere, but the very nature of [having] thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit is very different from geostationary satellites. … You have equal broadband all over the surface of Earth. Not exactly equal, it tends to be a lot more concentrated toward the poles, unfortunately.

“But you end up servicing the whole world. So it’s really good. By definition you end up accessing people who are ‘under-bandwidthed.’ Very rural areas, remote areas. And I think you can see going forward that internet, access to broadband is going to be very close to being a fundamental human need as we move forward.

“So Project Kuiper has that. It’s also a very good business for Amazon because it’s a very high-capex [capital expenditure] undertaking. It’s multiple billions of dollars of capex. … Amazon is a large enough company now that we need to do things that, if they work, can actually move the needle.”

Amazon has already turned on its global satellite control networks, mostly located at it’s Global Data Centers strategically placed around the globe. As a significant provider of cloud services, LEO satellite delivery systems makes good business sense. It is the last link to providing cloud services to every business on the planet, at a highly competitive rate, compared to competitors like Microsoft Asure, IBM Cloud and lesser-known cloud companies relying on existing fiber network infrastructure. Amazon will be able to reach more global customers faster with competitive cloud service rates. More HERE.

The top ten cloud service companies are:

Kamatera.
phoenixNAP.
Amazon Web Services.
Microsoft Azure.
Google Cloud Platform.
Adobe.
VMware.
IBM Cloud.

After Amazon, only Google has made a move toward having an LEO satellite distribution system, partnering with Telesat and adapting Project Loon to LEO applications

Loon adapting connection routing ‘network brain’ from balloons to low Earth orbit satellites

While I admire and root for SpaceX, who is building a top-down system, Amazon is taking a bottom-up approach, building on existing reliable infrastructure and capping it with a fleet of LEO satellites has a higher probability of succeeding.  The open question is can Amazon catch SpaceX and OneWeb who have birds in space.

Competition, Competition, Competition

by Russ Steele

One thing that activates the telco and cable providers is competition. How are they going to deal with the competition from SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon, and other LEO high-speed internet providers? These innovators are circling the legacy communications provider like a hunger coyote looking for a rabbit lunch.

In the past, the telcos use their political muscle to keep the competition under control at every opportunity. They spend millions on lawyers and lobbyist to shape legislation to stifle competition rather than spend their profits on providing superiors service.

For example, in the early days of WiFi, a Texas University was wiring up the campus. Next door to the University was some low-income housing, and the University wanted to share their WiFi with the low-income neighbors. According to the story I heard, AT&T sent 25 lawyers down to the State Legislature to stop this sharing of free WiFi. AT&T abhors competition!

We are going to see a significant upheaval in the internet market when the LEO satellites networks are established and fully functional. Today the phone and cable companies are providing marginal broadband services at a high cost to the consumer. Why, because they can, they are the only provider, with no competition.

There are millions of DSL customers poised to jump once a competitive broadband service is offered. Some communities have pinned their hope on 5G for more reliable service at higher speeds, but that technology rollout is controlled by the telco providers who are not going to provide competing service. On the other hand, they will have little control over the satellite internet service providers, unless they cut backhaul deals that incorporate some competition restrictions.

I can hear the conversation now, “If you sign this 5G backhaul contract, you cannot sell your broadband to our 4G/5G customers.”

The cable companies are losing customers to the cord cutters and streamers. While cutting the video cord, streams still need a broadband connection. In many cases, the cable internet service is the only connection, and it comes at a high price. Why, because the cable companies have no competitive incentive to reduce rates.

In many communities with only telco DSL or an aging cable plant available providing broadband access, LEO broadband will be the first time there will be some competitive service. The question is, how will the telco and cable companies deal with that competition?

They can lower the price for their marginal services, but the customer still has unreliable slow speed internet access, whereas the LEO satellites are offering much higher speeds, and hopefully more reliable service. All the LEO satellite service challenge are still unknowns.

In the end, the superior service will win if the cost is reasonable. Amazon is a significant disruptor in the retail sector, and space-based internet is going to be a substantial disruptor in the telecommunications sector.

How will the telcos respond?  Your thoughts?

SpaceX World-Wide Internet Plan Could Launch Private Vs Public Space Race

The Hill has the story:

Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently launched the first 60 satellites to test the concept of what will eventually be a constellation of thousands of satellites that are designed to bring high-speed internet to every corner of the Earth. When the constellation is complete, sometime in the mid-2020s, SpaceX thinks it can provide wi-fi services that are competitive with fiber optic cable in urban areas as well as to currently underserved rural parts of the planet.

Each satellite is small, equipped with a single solar panel, a krypton-fueled ion drive, a collision avoidance system, and the wherewithal to receive and send high-speed Wi-Fi transmissions. With SpaceX’s family of reusable rockets, Elon Musk can deploy Starlink relatively cheaply, for about $10 billion, according to one estimate.

At the end of their useful lives, the satellites will use their ion thrusters to crash back into the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up, and thus preventing them from becoming space debris.
The system would be a game changer for telecommunications and would provide SpaceX with an astonishing amount of revenue. How much revenue? A recent article in Next Big Future suggests that SpaceX could take in $40 billion a year, about twice the amount of NASA’s current annual budget. That number is comparable to what AT&T makes with Direct TV. What that extra shot of money will allow SpaceX to do is mind-boggling.

Continue reading HERE.

Let’s hope this is a factual article by a writer who understands the technology. However, I am troubled by the use of the term WiFi in this article. Some readers could think they can get connected to Starlink satellites by WiFi, which is not true. SpaceX is building a million ground terminals to communicate with the satellites. Their ground terminals may communicate with cell phones, laptops, and pads over WiFi, but there is another critical component in the communications chain, a $500.00 ground terminal.

 

New Space Race To Bring Satellite Internet To The World

Some views by industry leaders on the satellite internet race at CTVNews.

Anxiety has set in across the space industry ever since the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, revealed Project Kuiper: a plan to put 3,236 satellites in orbit to provide high-speed internet across the globe.

Offering broadband internet coverage to digital deserts is also the goal of the company OneWeb, which is set to start building two satellites a day this summer in Florida, for a constellation of over 600 expected to be operational by 2021

Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX is equally active: it’s just received a clearance to put 12,000 satellites in orbit at various altitudes in the Starlink constellation.
Not to mention other projects in the pipeline that have less funding or are not yet as defined.

Is there even enough space for three, four, five or more space-based internet providers?

At the Satellite 2019 international conference in Washington this week, professionals from the sector said they feared an expensive bloodbath — especially if Bezos, the founder of Amazon, decides to crush the competition with ultra-low prices.

“Jeff Bezos is rich enough to put you out of business,” said Matt Desch, the CEO of Iridium Communications.

Iridium knows all about bankruptcy. The company launched a satellite phone in the 1990s — a brick-like set that cost $3,000 with call rates of $3 a minute. Barely anyone subscribed at the dawn of the mobile era.

The firm eventually relaunched itself and has just finished renewing its entire constellation: 66 satellites offering connectivity, but not broadband, with 100 percent global coverage to institutional clients including ships, planes, militaries and businesses.

“The problem with satellites, it’s billions of dollars of investments,” said Desch.
And if “you spend billions and you get it wrong, you end up creating sort of a nuclear winter for the whole industry for 10 years. We did that,” he added.

“These guys coming in, I wish them really well… I hope they don’t take 30 years to become successful like we did.”

Continue reading HERE.  These two paragraphs caught my attention:

“The challenge in monetizing is being able to get through those first few years, where you have to put in all your capital expenses, but not being able to get enough revenues to keep you afloat,” Shagun Sachdeva, a senior analyst at Northern Sky Research, told AFP.

Sachdeva expects most of the companies to die off, adding that the market will eventually have room for “maybe two” and that space-delivered internet services won’t be commonplace for at least five to 10 years.

That is longer than I want to wait.

RCRC Commentary: Empower Local Communities to Close the Digital Divide

Greg Norton President and CEO of Rural County Representatives of California.

The deployment of broadband infrastructure supporting speed-of-commerce connectivity is among the most critical missing components needed to drive economic development in California’s rural communities. Broadband access is essential to connecting rural communities to the 21st century economy. Yet the barriers to deploying infrastructure continue to inhibit access in some of California’s most disadvantaged communities in both rural and urban areas.

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) represents 36 of California’s 58 counties, covering approximately 56 percent of the state’s land mass. It is estimated that merely 47 percent of California’s rural households within this population area have access to high-speed broadband.

I recently had the opportunity to speak about this crisis on a panel before the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) titled “The Imperative of Digital Inclusion.” In their 2016-17 Annual Report, CETF identified internet access as a “21st Century Civil Right,” and the internet is now firmly established as an operational epicenter for business, government, education, information, and basic services.

Access to broadband provides multiple economic and social benefits to rural residents by allowing access to vital government services and resources. Broadband contributes to job creation, economic growth and business investment improves access to critical healthcare services, and expands access to educational resources and opportunities. Broadband access for farmers and ranchers would allow for improved stewardship of our natural resources through the use of technology to monitor and measure water and soil conditions and usage.

Local governments have joined forces in advocating for the acceleration of broadband deployment in California’s rural communities, and have outlined a number of key provisions. First, the technology deployed must be an appropriate fit for the area — high-speed fiber connections are imperative. Second, we must look to rural electrification as a model, and fund local municipalities to develop the infrastructure, and provide the services. Lastly, local governments should be empowered to step up as lead partners with the federal government to formulate and execute upon strategies that achieve broad-based access to high-speed services.

When high-speed connectivity is unavailable, too slow, or too expensive, it has a significant impact on the economic success and quality of life in these communities. As a result of the digital divide, rural communities are suffering, and struggle to tap basic resources including educational opportunities, medical care, economic and trade opportunities, and vital government services, including public safety.

We’re aware of the challenges involved in deploying adequate capacity across the broadband infrastructure in California’s rural communities. Rugged terrain, remote locations, and sparse populations are all factors that lead to increased deployment and maintenance costs. However, these challenges must be addressed in order to provide this fundamental socio-economic tool and resource to the residents within these communities. While technological advances such as 5G are beneficial to the overall industry, this type of innovation only serves to create a greater chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Priority should be focused on an equitable deployment of appropriate level services throughout the state, not on the next big thing for the fortunate few.

Community-driven broadband partnerships offer a solution. We can quickly resolve this problem by including local communities in the process of choosing the appropriate means to deliver the requisite broadband to ensure quality of life, business growth, and household capital formation. In partnership with the federal government, communities can choose the approach to delivering broadband best suited to their specific needs. Options could include innovative public-private partnerships, other government financing, or through the enforced requirement of leveraging infrastructure investments made with federal dollars by incumbent providers. The Federal Communications Commission has deployed and earmarked enormous amounts of capital to closing the urban-rural divide that exists with access to broadband. Despite these massive influxes of capital, too many rural communities remain without access.

It is imperative that ubiquitous middle-mile fiber optic cable technology is provided at the speed of commerce to allow small to medium-sized businesses to compete in the digital global marketplace, and attract economic development opportunities to California’s rural communities. Although we have made advancements in expanding broadband, there is more to do to ensure that universal access to broadband services is realized for all rural residents. Now is the time — we must allow local communities to develop high-speed solutions that fit their rural communities’ broadband infrastructure needs. Broadband is fundamentally necessary to a community’s economic health, quality of life, and opportunity at prosperity.

The source is HERE.

Comment:

The Federal funding to improve rural access to broadband is the Connect America II Fund, which is a 10-year program.  The telco 5G build-out is expected to take at least a decade. If the LEO satellite programs from SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb, LeoSat, and Telesat are successful, space-based broadband will become available in 2021 which is only two years away. By 2024 there will be multiple broadband satellite companies competing for rural communities business. These companies are planning to provide 4G and 5G backhaul services at a lower cost than fiber, which has to deal with “rugged terrain, remote locations, and sparse populations.”  One of the obstacles to satellite broadband is the current CPUC and CETF policies which discriminate against satellite services. These are policies that were put in place due to the low speeds, long latency and high cost of geo-satellite broadband services.  LEO satellites latency is on par with cable networks and shared fiber services, and current speeds are equal to cable internet and on long distances exceed fiber speeds.  These policies need to be revisited and adjusted to match future broadband services. More in this issue in future posts.

Facebook LEO to Compete with SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon

This is an introductory blurb from July 2018 TechRepublic, below is an update from Satellite Markets, March 2019.

Facebook creates high-speed satellite broadband to compete for popularity with others like SpaceX and OneWeb. [Amazon has since joined the game]

Facebook plans on launching its own internet satellite in 2019, according to a Wired report on Friday. Currently, many people connecting to the internet in remote places receive very slow and little connectivity, which results in a frustrating user experience, the report noted, but satellites like those Facebook is planning could help remedy that.

The new satellites from Facebook were confirmed via emails obtained from the Federal Communications Commission, said the report. Named Athena, the internet device will look like “constellations” in the earth’s orbit, continue the report.

Update:

PointView Tech LLC. A filing with the FCC of a multi-million-dollar experimental satellite from Facebook was confirmed last July 2018. The satellite, named Athena, will deliver data 10 times faster than SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites.

In early 2019, PointView’s Athena will also head out to LEO, on an Arianespace Vega rocket. Athena is about the same size and weight (150 kg) as SpaceX and OneWeb’s satellites, but Athena will use high-frequency millimeter-wave radio signals that promise much faster data rates. The company estimates its E-band system will deliver up to 10 gigabits per second. “PointView is aiming to understand whether a system using E-band spectrum can be used for the provision of fixed and mobile broadband access in unserved and underserved areas,” it wrote in the FCC application.

PointView specifies three ground stations in its application that will send data to Athena in orbit and receive it in turn. One is a so-called satellite ‘teleport’ near Ventura, Calif., that is shared by a number of satellite companies. The second is Mount Wilson Observatory in the hills above Los Angeles, another popular location for communications hardware.

There are technical barriers to using E-band radio from orbit, however. High-frequency millimeter waves fade quickly and are easily absorbed by rain or other particles in the air. Part of Athena’s two-year mission will be to test just how big of a problem that is. “PointView plans to publish many of its experimental findings, including atmospheric attenuation model validation data,” says its application.

PointView expects to get download speeds of around 10 Gbps at its ground stations, with uplink speeds topping 30 Gbps. But because Athena is in LEO, it will only fly above the three ground stations a couple of times each day, and for less than eight minutes at a time.

Continue Reading HERE.

OneWeb with six sats in space and SpaceX’s TinTin A and B have been in orbit for a year making them the leaders, as the Athena Project will spend two years testing the E-Band and Laser Communications.  Amazon is just started hiring satellite engineers in Bellvue, Washington.  SpaceX will start launching operational satellites in May 2019.