Amazon requests FCC consent to launch Internet satellites

Project Kuiper needs the agency’s permission for its next stage.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Amazon has asked the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch satellites into Earth's orbit to push forward with a plan to create a global broadband network. 

In April, Amazon said "Project Kuiper" will bring together 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to improve online connectivity in rural and underserved areas across the globe. 

The tech giant hopes to deploy satellites at three different altitudes in order to serve "tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband Internet.'

Amazon's subsidiary, Kuiper Systems, has now filed with the FCC in a bid to gain consent for the next stage of the project, as reported by GeekWire

The filing says that the satellites will exist in 98 orbital planes, and their altitude will range from 366 and 391 miles. 

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Project Kuiper aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband services to the consumer and enterprise market. Citing the lack of access to fixed broadband endured by 21.3 million US citizens today -- a population segment within 3.8 billion individuals lacking the same services worldwide -- Amazon says that the satellite project will help bridge the "digital divide" by plugging the gap in availability. 

In addition, Project Kuiper is billed as a means to provide mobile LTE connectivity to underserved areas, aircraft, and maritime vessels.  

"Amazon seeks to maximize the potential of spectrum and orbital resources available to advanced NGSO broadband constellations -- providing high-quality broadband service to customers while simultaneously enhancing spectrum efficiency and spectrum sharing with other authorized systems," the filing reads

The company's proposed satellite network will take advantage of the infrastructure already in place to support Amazon Web Services (AWS), including data centers, fiber links, and computing resources. 

While no timeline for deployment was mentioned in the filings, Amazon's subsidiary says that satellite broadband could be offered after the first launch phase, which involves launching just over 500 satellites. 

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Amazon says the company "shares the FCC's vision" of affordable broadband for all, and should the FCC choose to grant permission for the satellite launch, this will "enable Amazon to join the effort to help close the digital divide in the United States and globally."

However, as noted by the publication, Amazon has requested a number of waivers to be accepted when it comes to sharing spectrum and potential inference, as well as a waiver to provide for the entire United States -- as Alaska is considered too far from the satellites' proposed positions to be served, at least at present. 

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Satellite-based broadband is expensive, but there are a number of companies exploring how deploying satellites in low orbit could bring down the cost and not only cater to underserved areas but make services such as in-flight Wi-Fi more affordable. 

Elon Musk's SpaceX Starlink broadband satellite system was deployed roughly a month ago. In total, 60 satellites were deployed and all but three are functioning as intended. SpaceX has been given permission by the FCC to deploy up to 7,000 satellites in the future. 

OneWeb and Facebook have also outlined plans to monetize space through broadband offerings. 

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