Amazon Jumps Into The Satellite Broadband Game

from the don't-count-your-chickens dept

We've long noted that you wouldn't see net neutrality or privacy violations in the broadband sector if there was more competition. Historically however, entrenched companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have spent millions upon millions of dollars preventing that from happening. They quite enjoy the current paradigm of limited competition, and with state and federal regulatory capture they face absolutely no penalty for sky high prices and abysmal service in most markets. And as the late 90s and early aughts made pretty clear, they're extremely good at crushing smaller companies that try to disrupt the space.

Enter Amazon, which is one of countless companies (including Space X) exploring the application of low-orbit satellites as a new broadband alternative. Amazon subsidiary Kuiper Systems last week filed a request with the FCC to ultimately launch 3,236 low orbit broadband satellites that would cover a sizeable portion of the globe. From the filings it's not clear if Amazon will offer these services directly to consumers, or focus more on selling connectivity to other entities:

"Amazon's satellite plan isn't solely for residential and business Internet—it's also for mobile access. In its new filings, Amazon said its network will be available to mobile operators, raising the possibility that small rural carriers could buy bandwidth from Amazon to boost coverage in areas with poor cellular access."

Ultimately, companies hope that low-orbit satellites will provide uniform connectivity with far lower latency than traditional satellite broadband, a service long ridiculed for being expensive, capped, and slow. Space X's Starlink efforts are particularly interesting, given they involve launching more than 7,800 lower orbit satellites to blanket the country will less expensive broadband. OneWeb, Telesat, and Space Norway have also received the green light from the FCC for similar, albeit less ambitious, efforts.

And while many of these efforts are interesting, it's probably wise to not get too excited. There have been numerous efforts to use satellite broadband to disrupt the telecom logjam, most of which haven't really gone anywhere:

"The history of satellite internet, however, is defined by failure, including one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in history. This was a reality Elon Musk candidly acknowledged to reporters ahead of the Starlink launch. “No one has ever succeeded in making a viable low Earth orbit communication constellation right off the bat,” Musk said. “I do believe we’ll be successful, but it is far from a sure thing."

And it should be pretty clear that companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be working tirelessly behind the scenes to throw up hurdles at every opportunity in a bid to ensure these alternatives never threaten their geographical monopolies. So while it's OK to be somewhat excited about these new efforts, you may want to temper your enthusiasm until you see a viable, working product. And oh, this is all before we get to the problems of space junk and the impact on astronomy.

Filed Under: broadband, competition, satellite
Companies: amazon


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2019 @ 7:25am

    And it should be pretty clear that companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast will be working tirelessly behind the scenes to throw up hurdles at every opportunity in a bid to ensure these alternatives never threaten their geographical monopolies.

    How much can they do, really?

    It's telling that multiple companies are willing to spend billions to send swarms of satellites above the USA (and elsewhere) rather than deal with red tape from the ground-based monopolies within it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 10 Jul 2019 @ 8:28am

    Re:

    How much can they do, really?

    Well for one thing, their FCC has to approve the satellites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2019 @ 8:31am

    Re: Re:

    If that's the telcos' plan, it's not working. SpaceX already got approval.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 10 Jul 2019 @ 8:38am

    "haven't really gone anywhere" - Translated

    "I'm jealous of Elon Musk. When those starlink satellites ejected flawlessly I cried myself to sleep."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    anonymouse, 10 Jul 2019 @ 8:41am

    When it comes to roadblocks ...

    Regulatory capture - done - anything they do wont be punished
    Finance Strangulation - not so easy with the bigger players
    Supply Chain Strangulation - Worked in the past
    Communication - Easy

    • mess with ground links and the connectivity providers
    • By "accident" wash over communication signals with signal drift
    • Damaging the satellite's when over "disputed" territories

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Jul 2019 @ 12:10pm

    Advancemnt of a nation..

    Based on the Corp mentality and collusion..

    THEY DONT LIKE CHANGE, it means that they need to spend MONEY..
    There are Very few things in this country, that WASNT backed and supported and Subsidized by the Gov.

    then for some odd reason a strange comment has been going around, that the Gov. needs to be smaller. And smaller. And as a corp. does its from the bottom up.. No more indians, just a Bunch of Chiefs..and nothing getting done.

    Those in charge of Food protections, 3-4 agencies, CANT do the job, they can cover 8% of the sources, and let the Corps do the rest...
    This is very similar to housing inspectors that only need to take a few classes, to Do the job...and NEVER hammer a nail..

    Used to be, that 1/2 the jobs in the USA belonged to the Fed/State/county workers.. its now a cut throat environment to KEEP your job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Jul 2019 @ 1:20pm

    And of course there are a bunch of astronomers who are worried it will murder looking into the sky.

    Satellite is still around (The new advertising talks about their new 5th Gen system trying to cash in on the 5G hype).

    We can't have 5G b/c it will blind us to extreme weather.
    We can't have satellites b/c it will blind us to space.
    Perhaps what we should have is actual competition & punishments for the companies that have taken billions to wire everyone but still can't manage to roll out a single DSL line in non-urban areas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2019 @ 8:20am

    Space Junk

    Space Junk won't be much of a problem at LEO where they want to put these thousands of satellites in.

    The orbits are harder to maintain, which means extra money to keep satellites up there (gotta replace, gotta give them enough fuel to get your ROI before they fall in) BUT it also means space junk at that orbit will fall down... in our life times.

    The higher orbits are the real mess and real concern.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    bob, 11 Jul 2019 @ 1:55pm

    try try again.

    Well hats off to trying. The creator of the first undersea communication cable failed the first several times he tried at a very expensive cost as well even for money valuations in his time.

    Then one day they made it work and now we have cables running everywhere on the sea floor. So just a matter of time for someone to make it work or discover a better idea than low orbit sats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.