Project Kuiper is an effort by Amazon to launch a broadband satellite internet constellation. Verizon has recently announced a partnership with Amazon to use that network to expand rural 4G and 5G access.
Amazon and Project Kuiper
Kuiper Systems is an Amazon subsidiary established in 2019 to oversee Project Kuiper, which is an effort to fund and deploy a satellite constellation that will provide broadband internet access. The goal of the project is to reach 10 million or more people worldwide who currently lack access to broadband internet especially in this time of pandemic where many American families are force to work from home, attend online classes, communicating through videocalls with their loves one and even simple pleasure like streaming movies and TV shows on their favorite streaming services and playing online games. Project Kuiper is not the only such venture. Another is Starlink by SpaceX, and there is also OneWeb. Amazon has not yet made it clear whether it intends to be an internet service provider or if it will just offer its infrastructure to other ISPs, and this is perhaps one way in which it differs.
Verizon and Its 4G and 5G Networks
Verizon is the largest mobile carrier in the U.S. with a 31% market share. AT&T is second at 27%. The average consumer tends to associate terms like 4G and 5G will cell service due to marketing, but all of the big mobile carriers are active in the home internet space as well and often via fixed wireless technologies. Verizon 5G Home offers average speeds of 300 Mbps, which is better than cable in most cases, and the top speed in some areas is 1 Gbps, which vies with fiber internet.
The Amazon and Verizon Partnership
We mentioned earlier that Amazon has not made it clear what its full intentions are with Project Kuiper. Will it be a provider or a facilitator? The recent agreement between Verizon and Amazon does not answer that question fully but at least demonstrates Amazon’s willingness to be a facilitator. Project Kuiper has lagged so far behind Starlink that it has led to much casual skepticism concerning the efforts by Amazon, but Verizon’s willingness to hitch its wagon to Project Kuiper is a notable vote of confidence. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg stated in the presser that Verizon sees fixed wireless and cloud compute as the future of internet access, and this partnership is an important step toward it.
Direct Competition to Starlink
Project Kuiper has always been seen as potential direct competition to Starlink, but this is perhaps the first time that it has seemed real. Starlink will soon be available publicly with a service that is comparable to cable internet and costs $100 a month. But it has steep initial equipment costs at $500. What if Verizon Home 5G via Project Kuiper can offer lower startup costs, lower monthly costs, faster service or perhaps a combination? Everything just got a lot more interesting for the rural consumer.
Changing the Agricultural Landscape
Verizon’s goals are not limited to just home users. By connecting the last mile of rural America, Verizon will be able to offer its IOT—internet of Things—services to many different industries. One of the most notable is agriculture. When this happens, experts expect a dramatic evolution in food production that will add jobs and increase food supplies not just at home but around the globe.
The Last Rural Mile
Reaching the last mile and closing the digital divide is a point of emphasis in the U.S. right now. Economists warn that it is incredibly valuable to our economy over the next 50 years, and the Build America Better framework includes billions of dollars toward that end. Efforts among providers are not limited to satellite and cellular either. Other examples include municipal fiber services and open access fiber infrastructures that set the stage for competition in previously underserved areas.