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Verizon is partnering with Amazon to use the tech giant’s coming satellite internet system to expand rural broadband access in the United States, the companies announced on Tuesday.
“We’re proud to be working together to explore bringing fast, reliable broadband to the customers and communities who need it most,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said in a statement.
Amazon is working on Project Kuiper, a network of 3,236 satellites that it plans to use to provide high-speed internet to anywhere in the world. While Amazon has yet to launch its first Kuiper satellites, the Federal Communications Commission last year authorized the system and the company has said that it plans to “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 extend Verizon’s 4G/LTE and 5G data networks,” the companies said.
Amazon and Verizon’s teams have begun working together “to define technical requirements to help extend fixed wireless coverage to rural and remote communities across the United States.” The companies see a wide variety of use cases for Kuiper’s extension of Verizon’s network, noting that it will look at “joint connectivity solutions” for industries including agriculture, energy, manufacturing, education, emergency response, transportation and more.
Late last year Amazon gave an early look at the performance of the “low-cost” satellite antenna it has been working on for Kuiper.
A Project Kuiper engineer sets up a a prototype antenna for a test.
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 leader in the market, with 1,740 satellites launched to date and more than 100,000 users in 14 countries who are participating in a public beta, with service priced at $99 a month.
British-owned OneWeb is the next furthest along in deploying satellites, with nearly half of its planned 648 satellites in low Earth orbit. Like Amazon’s collaboration with Verizon, OneWeb has partnered with AT&T for U.S. connectivity. OneWeb has raised $2.7 billion in funding since emerging from bankruptcy last year, with shareholders including the British government, Indian telecom 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 U.S. systems – satellite-to-smartphone specialist AST SpaceMobile and Lockheed Martin’s partnership with startup Omnispace – as well as Canadian satellite operator Telesat’s Lightspeed network.
While Amazon has yet to send any Kuiper satellites to orbit, the company earlier this year signed a deal with United Launch Alliance for nine launches. The FCC’s authorization of Kuiper means Amazon is required to deploy half of its planned satellites within six years, so the company is on the clock to deliver about 1,600 in orbit by July 2026.