Amazon's Project Kuiper aims to bring fast, affordable broadband services through a constellation of over 3,000 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). The company already has 1,000s of people working on the project, in an attempt to empower millions of people who lack a reliable Internet connection around the world. Amazon is also working on bringing its Project Kuiper satellite-based broadband connectivity to India where it will take on Elon Musk's Starlink among others.
Earlier this year, Amazon revealed a range of consumer terminals that will help connect to its broadband satellite network. The company had said that its designs are smaller, more affordable, and more capable than competitors.
Naveen Kachroo, Director, Product Management and Business Development, Project Kuiper
Photo Credit: Amazon
Gadgets 360 caught up with Naveen Kachroo, Director, Product Management and Business Development, Project Kuiper to understand Amazon's plans on bringing its satellite-based broadband Internet service to countries like India, and how the company will compete with Elon Musk's Starlink.
Note: Some responses have been condensed and slightly edited for clarity.
Gadgets 360: How many people are working on Project Kuiper at Amazon right now?
Naveen Kachroo: We have over 1,000 people right now. We have a primary location in Redmond, Washington, and we have other developing locations across the US. We have some regulatory teams in Washington D.C., and then we have development offices in Austin and San Diego.
Gadgets 360: What's the current status of the project right now?
Naveen Kachroo: Right now, we are excited about launching our two prototype satellites, that's our first orbital mission. The rest of the teams are building out production satellites so will continue to build during the rest of 2023, and then we will do the initial launches in 2024.
Project Kuiper promises to bring 'fast, affordable' broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the world
Photo Credit: Amazon
Gadgets 360: How is Amazon's Project Kuiper different from Elon Musk's Starlink?
Naveen Kachroo: For us, we work backwards from customer needs. What we're trying to achieve is the service cost target that we have. We believe that if the equipment cost is too expensive or if the service is too expensive then it'll be sort of niche, and nobody is going to use it. For us, the goal is to get that really affordable equipment and service first. At the end of the day, the goal is to provide a high-quality service at a low cost.
Secondly, we want to make sure it's flexible enough to serve many different segments. So, we want to serve residential customers, schools, hospitals, businesses, IoT, mobility, transportation and government use cases. So, from day 1, we've designed it to be a flexible software-defined network. It looks a little bit like a 5G network, but you can run different types of traffic.
Thirdly, we take a slightly nuanced approach on how to approach the market. We're willing to do local partnerships and regional partnerships, and we have different operators who are partners who have the same idea of solving connectivity problems. We're very open to those kinds of discussions.
Gadgets 360: How long would it take to provide coverage to the entire planet?
Naveen Kachroo: To cover the entire planet, we need to deploy 50 percent of the constellation by June 2026. The minute we do that we will have coverage between +/- 56 degrees.
Gadgets 360: Any plans to bring Project Kuiper to India?
Naveen Kachroo: We are very excited about bringing it to India! And we think there's tremendous opportunity there in India, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, there's a huge opportunity for us all around. We're actively working on it as we speak. In India, we're working with the government, we're working with potential partners. We don't have anything to announce today, but India is a very important opportunity for us.
Project Kuiper aims to bring high-speed, low latency broadband Internet all across
Photo Credit: Amazon
Gadgets 360: There's a lot of talk about making it affordable, but how is that going to be possible given how satellites and space launches can be pretty expensive
Naveen Kachroo: What we have done, at least from our standpoint, is we're designing everything in-house. The biggest advantage of that is that you get to control the costs. It also allows you to control performance, security, and IP. This way we don't have to deal with the long supply chain or worry about margins. We get to control the costs, we get to control the IP, and we get to control the cost reduction.
Secondly, we've done a lot of innovation when it comes to customer terminals. Amazon is known for building very high-quality, cost-efficient products. We get to take advantage of all the benefits of Amazon's devices division. Many players don't have that benefit. We also get to work with AWS, the entire Kuiper network is built on top of AWS.
Gadgets 360: What would a typical installation process look like with Project Kuiper? Especially for someone, for example, who is located in a remote village in India or somewhere else
Naveen Kachroo: Depending on the country, depending on the region, we'll have self-installation and professional installation services both. Our goal is to encourage self-installation. For example, you'll receive a package, which will have all the equipment — outdoor antennae, indoor units, Wi-Fi router, cables, and mount. The process is pretty simple, all you have to do is install the outdoor antennae, point it to the sky, you have to mount it. A single cable needs to be plugged into your router, that's it. Professional installations will be available where needed in specific use cases.
Gadget 360: Any hints at Project Kuiper pricing, especially for emerging markets?
Naveen Kachroo: We have nothing to announce today, but the way to think about is that we'll do regional pricing. So it wouldn't be one pricing for the entire planet. Every region will have its own set of tariff plans across different segments.
Disclosure: Amazon sponsored the correspondent's flights and accommodation for the event in Seattle, US.
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