Amazon’s New Portable Satellite Internet Antennas Make SpaceX Starlink Terminals Look Huge

Amazon has revealed a trio of satellite antennas as part of its Project Kuiper internet network, which aims to provide high-speed internet anywhere in the world. The antennas will compete with SpaceX’s Starlink system.

While Amazon has yet to display its satellites or provide details, Dave Limp, Amazon’s Senior Vice President of Devices and Services, has noted that its Kuiper satellites will be smaller than Starlink’s internet terminals, sold through SpaceX, and will perform significantly better, with the capability to process up to 1 terabit per second (Tbps) of traffic.

Project Kuiper aims to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit. The Federal Communications Commission authorized Amazon’s system in 2020, investing over $10 billion to make it.

The “standard” antenna design measures under 11 inches square and 1 inch thick, weighs less than 5 pounds and will provide speeds to customers of up to 400 megabits per second (Mbps). Meanwhile, the “ultra-compact” model, which Amazon claims is it’s smallest and most affordable, is a 7-inch square design weighing approximately 1 pound and will offer speeds up to 100 Mbps. In addition, Amazon plans to provide an antenna to government and enterprise customers for services like “ground mobility and the internet of things.”

While the company has yet to disclose the cost of making each ultra-compact antenna, Limp has confirmed that it is “materially less” expensive than the standard model. The most significant “pro” model, measuring 19 inches by 30 inches, will represent a high-bandwidth version for more demanding customers, providing speeds up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) via space.

The pro series will have a range of enterprise and government applications, such as military vessels or “oil rigs in the middle of the ocean.”

Amazon plans to begin mass-producing commercial satellites by the end of 2021, to produce up to “three to five satellites per day at scale.” The company’s first two prototype satellites will launch on United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket in May, with an expected lifespan of seven years in space.

Production satellite launches are scheduled to begin in the first half of 2024, with initial service available once the company has a few hundred satellites in orbit. However, Amazon has not announced the monthly service cost for Project Kuiper customers.

Limp emphasized the surprising affordability and performance of the antennas, stating, “they’re surprised by the price points, surprised at the performance for the size, and [the antennas] are solid-state, so there are no motors.”

He also highlighted the flexibility of the pro series and its potential to “deliver speeds up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) via space,” catering to the most demanding customers.

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