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Vodafone to Extend 5G Cover via Amazon’s Project Kuiper Satellites

Tuesday, Sep 5th, 2023 (8:47 am) - Score 2,168
Amazon-Project-Kuiper-Rockets

Mobile operator Vodafone and Vodacom have today announced that they’ve agreed a “strategic collaboration” deal to harness Amazon’s future Project Kuiper constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellites, which will be used to help extend the reach of their 4G and 5G networks across Europe and Africa.

At present Amazon hasn’t actually launched their new LEO network, which puts them a long way behind rivals such as OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink. Nevertheless, the company currently has approval to deploy and operate their own constellation of 3,236 LEO satellites as part of Project Kuiper, which will sit at an altitude of between 590km and 630km.

NOTE: Project Kuiper’s LEOs will communicate with ground stations using the 17.8-18.6GHz and 28.6-29.1GHz bands (more details).

Each LEO is fairly small, but they make up for that in quantity, and this approach typically delivers lots of data capacity (100-400Mbps broadband speeds), as well as relatively fast latency times (often c.20-40ms) – provided it’s all matched by plenty of Ground Stations. But the new network, much like other LEO constellations, also plans to cater for mobile (4G and 5G) connections.

Under the new agreement announced today, Vodafone and Vodacom plan to use Project Kuiper’s network to bring the benefits of 4G/5G connectivity to “areas that may otherwise be challenging and prohibitively expensive to serve via traditional fibre or microwave solutions.” Project Kuiper will thus connect geographically dispersed cellular antennas back to the companies’ core telecom networks.

The companies are also exploring additional enterprise-specific offerings to provide businesses with comprehensive global connectivity solutions, such as backup service for unexpected events and extending connectivity to remote infrastructure.

Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group CEO, said:

“Vodafone’s work with Project Kuiper will provide mobile connectivity to many of the estimated 40% of the global population without internet access, supporting remote communities, their schools and businesses, the emergency services, and disaster relief. These connections will be complemented further through our own work on direct-to-smartphone satellite services.”

Dave Limp, Amazon’s Senior VP for Devices and Services, said:

“Amazon is building Project Kuiper to provide fast, affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in unserved and underserved communities, and our flexible network means we can connect places that have traditionally been difficult to reach.

Teaming with a leading international service provider like Vodafone allows us to make a bigger impact faster in closing the digital divide in Europe and Africa. Together we’ll explore how we can help our customers get the most value from expanded connectivity, particularly in areas like residential broadband, agriculture, education, healthcare, transportation, and financial services.”

Vodafone, Vodacom and Project Kuiper will begin deploying services in Africa and Europe as Amazon’s production satellites come online. Amazon is preparing to test two prototype satellites – Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2 – in the “coming months” (these were originally due in early 2023, but the rockets they’ve picked have been delayed) before starting to deploy production satellites in 2024.

Amazon expects to begin beta testing Project Kuiper services with select customers by the end of 2024, and Vodafone and Vodacom plan to participate in that testing through this collaboration. The system, as currently designed, can process up to 1Tbps (Terabits per second) of data traffic on board each satellite, but that will be shared between many other users.

The company originally planned to launch half of its constellation no later than July 2026 (FCC requirement) and the rest would then be completed by the middle of 2029, so it will take time for Amazon to catch up with their established rivals.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
6 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Robin says:

    Why would any company want to sink money into a project that has no proven network yet and uses rockets that cost 2-4 times that of rival launch companies. It feels like a waste of company money.

    1. Avatar photo Chris says:

      Service may be expensive but reciprocal aws discounts may offset them.

  2. Avatar photo magic_system says:

    The only thing launched for Amazon’s Project Kuiper is a lawsuit

    https://www.theregister.com/2023/09/04/project_kuiper_amazon_lawsuit/

  3. Avatar photo Sam P says:

    When pigs fly!

  4. Avatar photo Sonic says:

    Can’t even deliver a basic 4G service in urban areas. But sure.

  5. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Rather an unfortunate name, as it gives the impression that the satellites will orbit as far out as Pluto, suitable only for customers who don’t mind latencies of the best part of a day.

Comments are closed

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