Verizon is partnering with Amazon to leverage the tech giant’s upcoming satellite Internet system to expand rural broadband access in the United States, the company said Tuesday.
“We’re proud to work together to deliver fast, reliable broadband to the customers and communities that need it most,” said Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon.
Amazon is working on Project Kuiper, a network of 3,236 satellites that will be used to deliver high-speed internet around the world. While Amazon has yet to launch its first Kuiper satellites, the Federal Communications Commission approved the system last year and the company announced it would invest “more than $ 10 billion” in Kuiper.
The companies’ partnership will see Verizon use Amazon’s system as an extension of its terrestrial service, with Kuiper adding “cellular backhaul solutions to expand Verizon’s 4G / LTE and 5G data networks,” the companies said.
The Amazon and Verizon teams have begun working together “to define technical requirements to extend landline coverage to rural and remote communities in the United States.” The companies see a variety of use cases for Kuiper’s expansion of the Verizons network and find that these are “common connectivity solutions” for industries like agriculture, energy, manufacturing, education, emergency response, transportation and more.
Late last year, Amazon gave an early glimpse into the performance of the “low-cost” satellite antenna it was working on for Kuiper.
Jassy noted that “no single company will close the digital divide on its own” as Kuiper is certainly not alone in the increasingly competitive field of high-speed satellite Internet.
SpaceX’s Starlink network is the early market leader with 1,740 satellites launched and more than 100,000 users in 14 countries participating in a public beta with a service price of $ 99 per month.
UK-owned OneWeb is the closest in satellite deployment, with nearly half of the 648 planned satellites in low earth orbit. As with Amazon’s collaboration with Verizon, OneWeb partnered with AT&T for US connectivity. OneWeb has raised $ 2.7 billion in funding since it went bankrupt last year, including the UK government, Indian telecommunications giant Bharti Enterprises, European satellite operator Eutelsat and Japanese investor SoftBank.
There are also other satellite broadband systems in various stages of development, including two US systems – the satellite-to-smartphone specialist AST SpaceMobile and Lockheed Martin’s partnership with start-up Omnispace – as well as the Lightspeed network of the Canadian satellite operator Telesat.
While Amazon has yet to put Kuiper satellites into orbit, the company signed a contract with the United Launch Alliance earlier this year for nine launches. The FCC’s approval of Kuiper means Amazon will have half of its planned satellites deployed within six years, so the company will ship around 1,600 in orbit by July 2026.