Kuiper Systems LLC (Amazon)
Project Kuiper is an initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world. Kuiper Systems LLC is a subsidiary of Amazon that was set up in 2019 to deploy a large broadband satellite internet constellation to provide broadband internet connectivity. The deployment is also referred to by its project name "Project Kuiper". Amazon announced that it would be investing US$10 billion in this project to deploy the satellite internet constellation. The Project Kuiper team submitted filings with the ITU and FCC, as well as built a diverse, world-class team of experts who are passionate about bridging the digital divide.
On 04 April 2019 Amazon announced Project Kuiper, a new initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world. Since its inception, the Project Kuiper team has made significant progress towards the goal to serve tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet.
On 29 July 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granting Amazon approval by a 5-0 vote to deploy and operate our constellation of 3,236 satellites. The authorization allows Project Kuiper to deliver satellite-based broadband services in the United States, helping expand internet access to households and communities across the country.
A project of this scale requires significant effort and resources, and, due to the nature of LEO constellations, it is not the kind of initiative that can start small. You have to commit. Amazon will invest more than $10 billion in Project Kuiper. This investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States, build and scale our ground network, accelerate satellite testing and manufacturing, and let us deliver an affordable customer terminal that will make fast, reliable broadband accessible to communities around the world.
“We have heard so many stories lately about people who are unable to do their job or complete schoolwork because they don’t have reliable internet at home,” said Dave Limp, Senior Vice President, Amazon. “There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that. Our $10 billion investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States that will help us close this gap. We appreciate the FCC's unanimous, bipartisan support on this issue, and I want to thank Chairman Pai and the rest of the Commission for taking this important first step with us. We’re off to the races.”
Project Kuiper will deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband service to places beyond the reach of traditional fiber or wireless networks. It is inspired by customers in every corner of the world: by families working and learning together from home; by scientists and researchers operating in remote locations; by first responders providing disaster relief; and by companies of all sizes moving their business online. Project Kuiper will serve individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses and other organizations operating in places without reliable broadband.
“We are doing an incredible amount of invention to deliver fast, reliable broadband at a price that makes sense for customers,” said Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper. “LEO-based broadband systems like Project Kuiper present a huge number of challenges, and we have assembled a world-class team of engineers and scientists who are committed to delivering on our vision for Project Kuiper and keeping space a safe, sustainable environment for everyone. Combine that with Amazon’s deep expertise in networking and infrastructure and its ability to finance such a huge undertaking, and I am optimistic about the impact we can have for these unserved and underserved communities.”
Kuiper is also committed to working with public and private sector partners that share this vision for the project. In addition to providing ground station service directly to customers, Project Kuiper will also provide backhaul solutions for wireless carriers extending LTE and 5G service to new regions. Together, these projects will expand broadband access to more households in the United States and around the world.
As Amazon’s Project Kuiper team continues to make great strides, the team has once again outgrown its current facility. With that in mind, we are leasing and renovating a long term home for the Kuiper team in Redmond, WA, which will become Kuiper’s primary headquarters for research & development, as well as its primary prototype manufacturing and qualification facility. Amazon Kuiper’s new state-of-the-art facility will consist of two buildings with a total of 219,000 square feet of space. It will include offices and design space, R&D labs, and prototype manufacturing facilities. Renovations on the facility are already underway, and the Kuiper team will move into the new site in 2020. Amazon Kuiper’s R&D and prototype manufacturing facility is just the latest investment from Amazon in the Puget Sound Region.
Jeff Bezos sold almost $5 billion of Amazon.com Inc. stock in early May 2021. According to US Securities and Exchange Commission filings, he planned to sell as many as 2 million shares. The world’s richest person continues to hold more than 10 percent of Amazon, the primary source of his $192.1 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In 2020 he disposed of stock worth more than $10 billion. In the 15 years after Amazon went public in 1997, Bezos sold about a fifth of the online retailer for roughly $2 billion. The value of his stake had grown to such an extent in recent years that he can now sell relatively small amounts for billions of dollars.
The Amazon founder has used equity sales to fund rocket company Blue Origin, while he’s committed $10 billion to the “Bezos Earth Fund to help counter the effects of climate change. Bezos is also due to take delivery of a superyacht being built in the Netherlands that will be 127 meters (417 feet) long, span several decks and sport three enormous masts. The biggest hit to Bezos’s wealth came after his divorce from MacKenzie Scott, who received a 4 percent stake in Amazon as part of the split.
On 29 July 2020 the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] granted the request of Kuiper Systems LLC (Amazon) to deploy a non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) system to provide service using certain Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) and Mobile-Satellite Service (MSS) Ka-band frequencies. The FCC granted Kuiper’s application for authority to deploy and operate its NGSO FSS system in the 17.7-17.8 GHz, 17.8-18.6 GHz, 18.8-19.3 GHz, 19.3-19.7 GHz, 19.7-20.2 GHz, 27.5-28.6 GHz, 28.6-29.1 GHz, 29.1-29.5 GHz, and 29.5-30.0 GHz bands, and to provide MSS, in addition to FSS, in the 19.7-20.2 GHz and 29.5-30.0 GHz bands, and to use MSS feeder links in the 19.4-19.6 GHz and 29.1-29.5 GHz bands, subject to certain conditions. It denied Kuiper’s request for a waiver of the Commission’s processing round rules, include Kuiper’s application in the March 2020 Processing Round, and address certain other requests. In granting Kuiper’s application, the FCC address concerns expressed in the record and deny the petition to dismiss or defer filed by SES Americom, Inc. and O3b Limited (collectively SES), the petition to dismiss without prejudice or hold in abeyance filed by Telesat Canada (Telesat), and the petitions to deny filed by Theia Holdings A, Inc. (Theia) and WorldVu Satellites Limited (WorldVu).
Kuiper filed its application on July 4, 2019 outside of previous processing rounds initiated in July 2016 and May 2017 for NGSO FSS systems. The International Bureau placed Kuiper’s application on public notice on September 27, 2019, and subsequently decided to provisionally place Kuiper’s application in a new processing round (March 2020 Processing Round) for additional applications or petitions for NGSO systems. For licensing and grants of U.S. market access for NGSO-like systems, the Commission employs a processing round procedure which includes a public notice announcing a cut-off date for applications to be considered concurrently.
Kuiper will be included in the March 2020 Processing Round. The FCC found an insufficient basis to treat Kuiper on an equal basis with earlier authorized systems under section 25.261 of the Commission rules, and found that Kuiper must coordinate to prevent harmful interference to operational systems licensed or granted U.S. market access in the previous NGSO FSS processing rounds. The FCC expected that, regardless of the sharing status of systems in different processing rounds, systems authorized in an earlier processing round may not withhold information necessary to effectuate good faith coordination to enable Kuiper to start.
In its July 4, 2019 application, Kuiper proposed to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband services by operating 3,236 satellites in 98 orbital planes at altitudes of 590 km, 610 km, and 630 km. Kuiper states that its system, which will also include gateway earth stations, customer terminals, “software-defined network” and satellite control functionality, satellite operations centers, telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C) earth stations, and other technologies, will be capable of providing continuous coverage to customers within approximately 56°N and 56°S latitude, thereby serving the contiguous United States, Hawaii, U.S. territories, and other world regions. According to Kuiper, the system will be deployed in five phases, and service will begin once the first 578 satellites are launched. Kuiper plans to use the following frequencies: 17.7-18.6 GHz (space-to-Earth), 18.8-20.2 GHz (space-to-Earth), and 27.5-30.0 GHz (Earth-to-space).
Kuiper requests that its operations in the 19.7-20.2 GHz and 29.5-30.0 GHz bands also be conducted in the MSS, in addition to the FSS operations addressed above. Kuiper maintains that adding the MSS designation does not change the characteristics of its proposed plan or increase interference. Kuiper also requests waivers of the Commission’s Ka-band plan to the extent necessary to operate FSS and MSS in these bands. Allowing MSS operations in these bands would give Kuiper flexibility to operate feeder links in the 19.4-19.6 GHz and 29.1-29.5 GHz bands, which can only be used by NGSO systems for feeder links to MSS space stations. Kuiper states that the Commission granted O3b market access to provide MSS and FSS in these bands, and requests that it be authorized on the same terms as O3b, i.e. that it comply with PFD and EPFD limits; cooperate with other NGSO operators to ensure that aggregate EPFDdown limits comply with Article 22 of the ITU Radio Regulations and Resolution 76 of the ITU-RR; and conduct its MSS operations on a non-interference, non-protected basis with respect to other operations in the bands.
Iridium stated that the Commission should deny Kuiper’s request to operate NGSO MSS feeder links associated with MSS operations in the 19.7-20 GHz and 29.5-30.0 GHz bands or, alternatively, condition any authorization to ensure that Iridium’s network is protected and Kuiper actually uses the spectrum to support MSS operations. Iridium argues that the Commission should enforce the Ka-band plan and reject Kuiper’s request to operate its FSS system “in feeder-link spectrum reserved for NGSO systems in the Mobile-Satellite Service.” Iridium states that Kuiper “has not shown special circumstances that would warrant such special treatment, and it has not demonstrated that Kuiper can share with Iridium.” According to Iridium, Kuiper is primarily focused on providing fixed broadband services and fixed backhaul to terrestrial operators; and that most of the ESIMs communicating with Kuiper’s satellite system will be licensed as FSS, not MSS terminals. From this, Iridium concludes that the “vast majority” of Kuiper’s traffic would be FSS, not MSS. Iridium argued that the grant of O3b waivers for these frequencies was a very different situation because (1) O3b received its waiver before the “Commission proposed service rules permitting NGSO ESIMs as an application of FSS,” and thus a waiver was needed; and (2) the size of Kuiper’s system raises significant issues for new NGSO entrants and applications for entry.
25. Kuiper states that its operation of MSS feeder links in the 19.4-19.6 GHz and 29.1-29.5 GHz bands would be consistent with the Ka-band plan. To protect Iridium’s operations, Kuiper states that it will not co-locate its gateway earth stations with existing or planned Iridium gateway earth stations; stations that are close enough to generate harmful interference will be operated to avoid co-frequency and co-polarization operations during predicted events; and if harmful interference is unavoidable, Kuiper states that it will reduce its effective isotropically radiated power (EIRP) or temporarily cease transmission. We note that coordination will be required between Kuiper and any previously authorized NGSO MSS systems not included in the March 2020 Processing Round, including the Iridium system and O3b, over the bands designated for use by NGSO MSS feeder links, i.e., the 19.3-19.7 GHz and 29.1-29.5 GHz bands. Until any required coordination agreement is obtained, operations in the 19.3-19.7 GHz and 29.1-29.5 GHz bands shall not be conducted.
An applicant for a space station authorization must submit a description of the design and operational strategies that it will use to mitigate orbital debris, including a statement detailing post-mission disposal plans for space stations at the end of their operating life. Kuiper included an orbital debris mitigation plan in its application. The FCC reviewed Kuiper’s orbital debris mitigation plan, as supplemented. Kuiper indicates that its orbital debris mitigation plan is a preliminary assessment pending the final constellation design. Kuiper proposes to deorbit satellites in no more than 355 days following completion of their mission, a shorter time frame than the 25-year standard established by NASA. Kuiper states that it will comply with NASA standards regarding surviving debris, but it is not yet able to provide an analysis using NASA’s Debris Assessment Software. SpaceX noted, however, that Kuiper failed to submit a casualty risk analysis as required by section 25.114(d)(14)(iv), which requires an estimate regarding whether portions of a satellite will survive re-entry and reach the Earth’s surface, and an estimate regarding the probability of human casualty. WorldVu noted that Kuiper fails to provide an explanation of the risk of intra-shell collisions between failed satellites because it does not address management of the crossing points of its shells.
Kuiper requested a waiver of section 25.146(b) of the Commission’s rules which requires NGSO FSS operations in the 18.8-19.3 GHz and 28.6-29.1 GHz bands, among others, to provide a demonstration that the proposed system is capable of providing FSS on a continuous basis throughout the fifty states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Kuiper stated that the design of its system can meet the requirements of section 25.146(b) except as it applies to coverage for the majority of Alaska. The FCC found that a grant of this waiver will serve the public interest. With respect to the national coverage requirement, the FCC recognized that several of the other NGSO FSS applicants intend to provide communications coverage to all U.S. states and territories, thereby mitigating concerns about Kuiper’s lack of coverage to the majority of Alaska.
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