Amazon’s Project Kuiper is aiming to provide fast, affordable broadband to communities around the world through its low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network. But traditionally, the equipment required to connect with these satellites has been too expensive and complex for many customers.
To overcome this obstacle, Project Kuiper set an ambitious goal to design a customer terminal that costs less than $500 to build. The company’s engineers hit this milestone in 2020 by inventing a new antenna architecture that was smaller, lighter, and more affordable than traditional designs.
Project Kuiper customer terminals
Amazon has recently unveiled three engineering models that will anchor its customer terminal portfolio. The first is a high-performance design for residential and small business customers that measures less than 11 inches square and weighs less than five pounds without its mounting bracket. Despite its modest footprint, the device will be one of the most powerful commercially available customer terminals of its size, delivering speeds up to 400 megabits per second (Mbps) for less than $400 each.
The second design is an ultra-compact model that measures just 7 inches square and weighs just 1 pound. It offers speeds up to 100 Mbps and is aimed at residential customers who need a lower-cost option, as well as government and enterprise customers pursuing applications like ground mobility and internet of things (IoT).
Finally, Project Kuiper’s largest and most capable model is designed for enterprise, government, and telecommunications applications that require even more bandwidth. The device measures 19 inches by 30 inches and delivers speeds up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).
All of these customer terminals are powered by an Amazon-designed baseband chip called “Prometheus,” which combines the processing power of a 5G modem chip, the capability of a cellular base station to handle traffic from thousands of customers at once, and the ability of a microwave backhaul antenna to support powerful point-to-point connections.
Satellite production and launch
Amazon is already scaling its infrastructure in anticipation of building tens of millions of units for customers. Project Kuiper is also preparing to deploy its first two prototype satellites on the first flight of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket, which will help the company gain real-world data on how the systems perform in space.
With plans to launch the first production satellites in the first half of 2024, Project Kuiper expects to give its earliest customers access to the service later that year. By providing affordable and fast broadband to communities around the world, Project Kuiper hopes to bridge the digital divide and connect even more people to the internet.