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.

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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?

Amazon’s Broadband Network from the Ground Up

Amazon has not launched any LEO Broadband Satellites like SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat but they already have a ground station network for controlling satellites, uploading and downloading data. Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, announces its availability in the video below:

The AWS Ground Station Network is a fully managed, ready-to-go ground station service, featuring:

  • No upfront cost.
  • Scaleability — you only pay for antenna time.
  • No long-term contract.
  • Self-service scheduling on a per-minute basis, that can be changed dynamically using their ground station console.
  • Secure transmission.
  • Low latency due to proximity to Amazon data centers.
  • Integration with EC2, S3 and other Amazon services and Amazon’s global network backbone.
  • Simultaneous up/download.
  • Support of most common communication frequencies.

 

The open question is will SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat use this service?

OneWeb News: User Terminal Partnership with Intellian

Press Release From: OneWeb

OneWeb, a global communications company with a vision to enable internet access everywhere for everyone, has announced a partnership with Intellian, to build user terminals designed specifically for remote enterprise networks, cellular backhaul expansion and remote connectivity needs. The user terminals will be the units provided to customers to enable the high-speed, low latency service that our global satellite constellation will deliver.
These user terminals will be perfect for a range of use cases including connecting businesses in rural areas, schools, hospitals, farms and community centers.
This partnership represents a significant step-forward in the development of OneWeb’s system following the launch of its first satellites and its first customer announcements in February 2019. With six satellites now in orbit and a range of antennas now in place, OneWeb is ready to advance the development of its portfolio of user terminals, ranging from compact flat panels to highly-efficient dual parabolics. All our user terminals will be designed to serve a range of customer needs, market verticals and use cases.
With many remote and unconnected areas around the world still lacking access to broadband, these user terminals will help to close to gaps and connect remote enterprises, as well as, expand cellular backhaul capacity which is essential for extending connectivity. The terminals will utilize dual-parabolic antennas to deliver cost-effective and efficient throughput making high-speed and low-latency services available in hard-to-reach areas and helping bridge the digital divide.
“This is an exciting moment for OneWeb as we expand and develop our user terminals with an extremely important partner”, said Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb. “Our user terminals will always be designed with customer needs in-mind, ensuring we deliver a service they can trust. We’re delighted to be partnering with Intellian and this agreement marks a major step forward in our efforts to bridge the global digital divide.”

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.

Radio Astronomers Not Happy About Constellations of LEO Satellites

Space Daily has some details:

Today, radio astronomy faces a new front of enormous satellite constellations, the big three being: SpaceX’s Starlink, OneWeb, and IridiumNEXT. The SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation aims to launch around 12,000 satellites to serve the purpose of a space-based Internet system. The OneWeb constellation’s end plan is to have almost 3,000 satellites in orbit to also serve the purpose of an Internet service. Iridium NEXT, like the original constellation, is a telecommunications satellite constellation consisting of 66 satellites. Of the three, Starlink obviously grabs the most attention and instills the most fear for obvious reasons. Harvey Liszt, astronomer and spectrum manager for the NRAO, reached out to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in February 2018 to express concern over SpaceX’s constellation.

“SpaceX, which plans to use the 10.7 – 12.7 GHz band for its downlink, has not yet fulfilled its obligations under US131. Coordination between SpaceX and the AUI observatories (together with NSF) trailed off inconclusively around the middle of 2017 after a tentative and rather preliminary treatment of radio astronomy’s concerns and the manner in which SpaceX planned to address them.”

Continue reading HERE.

As a former Amateur Radio Astronomer and visitor to radio astronomy observatories across the nation, I understand the magnitude of the problem.  I have visited the Green Bank Radio Observatory several times, and the Very Large Array was an excellent experience.

Very_Large_Array,_2012

We drove up to the VLR about three in the afternoon, and as we stood outside our vehicle, all the antenna is the array started to move, sweeping across the sky toward the sun. The sun is sometimes used by an astronomer to calibrate receivers, we have no idea if this was the case this time. We drove on to the central facility, and the doors were all lock, but we found some stairs and platform that let us look in windows of the observer station. It was vacant, no observers at the controls.  It was spooky watch the antenna move and knowing the control room was empty, no humans present. The VLA is monitored and controlled remotely.

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.