Advanced Television

Kuiper promises to “delight” clients with bandwidth

March 15, 2023

By Chris Forrester

Amazon’s mega-constellation broadband Kuiper Project received a major progress update at the Satellite 2023 show in Washington DC on March 14th. Its first demo satellites will launch in early May 2023 and customer kit development is well advanced. Kuiper has FCC permission to launch 3,236 satellites for its proposed broadband service. There are more than 1,000 engineers and technicians working on the project which will provide direct competition to SpaceX’s Starlink system.

Ultimately, Kuiper says that it plans to build three-to-five satellites daily as it races to meet a regulatory deadline to have half its proposed constellation in LEO by mid-2026.

Kuiper’s team showcased conventional customer dishes, and commercial kit, as well as the system’s ‘Promethius’ chip-set and the Project’s first demo-satellites being shipped ready for launch. The ultra-compact consumer dish is just 7” square and yet still able to handle speeds of around 100 Mb/s.

“Project Kuiper plans to serve tens of millions of customers, so we set an ambitious goal at the start of the project: design a customer terminal that costs less than $500 to build,” says a statement from the Project. Project Kuiper engineers hit that milestone in 2020, inventing a new antenna architecture that was smaller and lighter than traditional designs. Since then, the team has continued to innovate to make its terminal designs even smaller, more affordable, and more capable, .

Project Kuiper’s standard customer terminal measures less than 11 inches square and 1 inch thick. It weighs less than five pounds without its mounting bracket. Despite this modest footprint, the device will be one of the most powerful commercially available customer terminals of its size, delivering speeds up to 400 Mb/s. Amazon expects to produce these terminals for less than $400 each.

“Our goal with Project Kuiper is not just to connect unserved and underserved communities, but also to delight them with the quality, reliability, and value of their service,” said Rajeev Badyal, Amazon’s VP/technology for Project Kuiper. “From day one, every technology and business decision we’ve made has centred on what will deliver the best experience for different customers around the world, and our range of customer terminals reflects those choices.”

Project Kuiper customer terminals are powered by an Amazon-designed baseband chip, developed under the code name ‘Prometheus’. Prometheus combines the processing power of a 5G modem chip found in modern smartphones, 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—and it packs all of that into a single custom chip.

Amazon reminds potential clients that it has built and shipped hundreds of millions of devices for customers, including best-selling, low-cost products like Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick. Project Kuiper is applying that experience to its customer terminal design and production processes, and the team 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. The upcoming mission will help Project Kuiper engineers gain real-world data on how the systems perform in space and let them test the entire end-to-end communications network. In parallel, Project Kuiper is scaling operations in preparation for offering commercial service. The team recently began development of a dedicated satellite production facility in Kirkland, Washington, and expects to begin mass-producing satellites by the end of 2023. Project Kuiper expects to launch the first production satellites in the first half of 2024 and plans to give its earliest customers access to the service beginning later that year.


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