Verizon and Project Kuiper team on satellite broadband connectivity

Verizon and Amazon’s Project Kuiper have announced a strategic collaboration to develop connectivity solutions for underserved and unserved communities.  The collaboration includes the two companies starting to develop technical specifications and “define preliminary commercial models,” according to the Verizon announcement, for connectivity services for U.S. consumers and global enterprise customers with operations in rural and remote locations around the world.

“Project Kuiper offers flexibility and unique capabilities for a LEO satellite system, and we’re excited about the prospect of adding a complementary connectivity layer to our existing partnership with Amazon,” Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg said. “We know the future will be built on our leading 5G network, designed for mobility, fixed wireless access and real-time cloud compute. More importantly, we believe that the power of this technology must be accessible for all. Today’s announcement will help us explore ways to bridge that divide and accelerate the benefits and innovation of wireless connectivity, helping benefit our customers on both a global and local scale.”

Amazon’s Project Kuiper is a global broadband network planning to use 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) delivering services to individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses and other organizations operating in places where internet access is limited or unavailable. Amazon will invest up to $10 billion to the program.

“There are billions of people without reliable broadband access, and no single company will close the digital divide on its own,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said.  “Verizon is a leader in wireless technology and infrastructure, and we’re proud to be working together to explore bringing fast, reliable broadband to the customers and communities who need it most. We look forward to partnering with companies and organizations around the world who share this commitment.”

Initially, the two companies will look at expanding Verizon’s network using Project Kuiper cellular backhaul solutions, leveraging the latter’s current antenna development efforts to extend fixed wireless coverage to rural and remote communications across the U.S.  Verizon and Project Kuiper also intend to design and develop new enterprise solutions, pairing them up with Verizon’s different wireless, networking, and edge compute solutions.

Amazon and Verizon have been working together on many projects where compute and bandwidth combine, including Verizon deploying Amazon’s Wavelength 5G edge platform with its 5G network for high bandwidth low-latency requirements.

However, this announcement needs to be placed in perspective.  OneWeb is expected to have its satellite broadband network up and running globally by the end of 2022 while Telesat expects to start launching its first Lightspeed LEO broadband satellites in 2023 with full global service turned up in 2024.  Amazon has been cagy about when it will start launching satellites and offering production services.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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