Amazon has made a deal with Verizon to use the communication giant’s network to link its proposed satellite fleet.
As Bloomberg News noted in its report on Tuesday (Oct. 26), the deal adds fuel to Amazon’s rivalry with Elon Musk’s StarLink System.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has pledged $10 billion to Kuiper Systems LLC, which plans to launch 3,236 satellites that will provide broadband internet access.
With the Verizon deal, Amazon will look for ways these satellites could link to Verizon’s earthbound communications network to connect remote areas.
Amazon first started exploring satellite-based internet connectivity in 2019, with plans to have its fleet of satellites in a low-earth orbit by 2029.
The company estimates that it will be able to provide internet connectivity to 95% of the world’s population with this initiative. Roughly four billion people around the globe are without reliable internet access today.
Amazon has said it hopes to have half of the satellites launched by 2026. The company is building a lab to support the project in Redmond, Washington, with about 500 Amazon employees working on Project Kuiper. Amazon also recruited more than a dozen Facebook employees for the project last month.
The deal also marks a new stage in the space race between the world’s two richest men (Musk is worth $229 billion, Bezos $193 billion). Musk has sent more than 1,500 low-earth orbit satellites into space through his Space Exploration Technologies Corp., and competes with Bezos’ Blue Origin in the realm of launch technology.
Last month, Kuiper filed what Bloomberg called “a scathing comment” with the Federal Communications Commission, saying that Musk and his businesses had ignored regulations with the attitude that “rules are for other people.”
The plan to offer broadband via low-earth-orbit satellite has drawn investments from other billionaires and world governments. These include OneWeb, backed by Indian telecommunications titan Sunil Mittal and the U.K. government, which recently made a deal with AT&T to hook up customers using existing land-based networks.