by Tangi Quemener
Though satellite internet has existed for years, the competition is
about to rapidly intensify, with companies planning to launch
thousands of their own systems into low Earth orbit.
The latest move in the industry came on Tuesday from Amazon, which
took a major step towards getting its $10 billion Kuiper
constellation off the ground by sealing deals with three rocket
The US online retail giant wants to strengthen its lucrative
diversification into IT services, and,
broadband to a wide range of customers," including those
"working in locations without a reliable internet connection."
"Satellite solutions are an indispensable complement to fiber,"
said Stephane Israel, chief executive of
Arianespace, one of the Amazon
"There are situations in which fiber is much too expensive
compared to satellite connections, especially to reach the last
inhabitant of a remote area," he explained.
In addition to the
satellites themselves, Amazon plans,
client terminals" along the lines of Echo smart-homes and Kindle
e-readers, and promises to "provide service at a price that is
affordable and accessible to customers," with no further pricing
Will Amazon be able to
break through the increasingly crowded market?
Satellite internet already exists:
US customers have
while in Europe,
Nordnet - among others -
uses the power of the
Eutelsat Konnect satellite
to offer broadband to its customers...
Costs for users start
under 60 Euros ($70) per month, excluding terminal and antenna, and
increase according to the bandwidth.
But because these services use satellites at geostationary orbit -
more than 35,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) from Earth's surface -
their speed cannot match that of fiber, prohibiting use for
high-speed tasks like gaming.
Amazon's future satellites, like those already launched by
Starlink, a subsidiary of
Elon Musk's SpaceX, will operate in low Earth orbit
(LEO), only 600 km high.
Low orbit more
"The advantage of LEO
is that you reduce the latency, (and) by reducing the latency
you maximize the uses," said Israel.
On the other hand, being
closer to Earth makes it necessary to send many more spacecraft into
more than 3,200 for
Amazon, and thousands for Starlink, of which around 1,500 are
OneWeb has launched 428 of the
648 satellites in its LEO constellation, and China plans to deploy
around 13,000 "GuoWang" satellites.
Beyond the issues of national competition, the rapid expansion
responds to an equally growing need.
In late March, the United Nation's International
Telecommunication Union (ITU)
"once considered a
luxury, internet connectivity became crucial for many during the
COVID-19 'pandemic' as
populations faced stay-at-home orders and many practices moved
"The need for bandwidth has skyrocketed around the world, and we
will never launch enough satellites to meet the demand,"
predicts an executive AFP met this week in Colorado Springs, on
the sidelines of the world's biggest space technology trade
But the bandwidth
marketing specialist, who asked to remain anonymous, also noted
spacecraft are far more vulnerable than geostationary ones, as
demonstrated by the recent loss of dozens of Starlinks after a
As a result,
"they will have to be
The rocket companies will
not mind that...