Amazon announced earlier this year that it was joining the satellite Internet competition, confirming plans to launch 3,236 broadband Internet satellites into low-Earth orbit,media reported. Amazon officials say the vast fleet of satellites, known as Project Kuiper, will in the future provide low-latency, high-speed broadband to tens of millions of people around the world who are underserved, which will undoubtedly connect them to the wider world of Amazon products.
But before the Kuiper project can start, the company must obtain approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate within a specific spectrum. In an application filed in July, Amazon asked for an exemption from the FCC rules to grant it the necessary permits. The problem, however, is that the FCC licensed the spectrum to nine other satellite Internet companies several years ago with different, more complex programs.
The companies, including SpaceX and OneWeb, are now lobbying the FCC to reject Amazon’s request for an exemption, according to FCC records. If successful, they could significantly reduce the Viability of the Kuiper Project in an already saturated market.
According to FCC records, senior SpaceX officials have met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and other agencies at least three times to make on-site complaints about the Kuiper project application. The first meeting took place a few weeks after Amazon submitted its application, and the most recent was held from 2 to 3 December.
“Amazon’s public attempt to overturn the long-standing rules will undermine confidence in the commission’s procedures, undermine competition, and eliminate broadband options for consumers,” SpaceX’s lawyers wrote in a November 25 filing. “The Kuiper project will have a significant adverse impact on SpaceX… Amazon’s miscalculations are counterproductive to common sense. “
Industry experts say Amazon’s demands are unorthodox, but there is a clear reason for the company’s attempt to get its coveted spectrum through a back door.
If the Kuiper project were to wait for a second spectrum licensing round, it might be required to operate on the spectrum as a “second-class citizen” and be forced to stop launching whenever one of its satellites interferes with a previously established operator. FCC officials say the agency must take into account the rights already acquired by SpaceX, OneWeb and other first-round licensees.
“Although we don’t see any reason to put it (Amazon) in the same round … we don’t think we should put it in the same round. . . We think that when everything is done, not everything is built (as proposed by the original licensee), and there are other spatial systems. The official said. The emerging competition that dominates the satellite Internet offers unprecedented solutions for regulating institutions entering space.
Overall, humans have launched fewer than 9,000 objects into space, and there are still 5,400 satellites still orbiting the Earth, about half of which are active. The huge constellations proposed by SpaceX, Amazon and others will greatly increase that number. Putting large numbers of satellites into low-Earth orbit would also make collisions with space junk more likely and potentially more destructive.
The space was so large that it would provide space for all proposed satellites. However, the valuable frequency required to transfer data is more limited. Industry experts say the economy of satellite broadband Internet has become so difficult that only a handful of early entrants to the market, if any, can survive.
Roger Rusch, a satellite and telecommunications consultant at TelAstra, said: “I’m phasing out Amazon because they haven’t started yet, and the others – SpaceX, OneWeb – are already making satellites.” By the time Amazon started operating, they might have been a few years behind. “
SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, has launched 120 of its 12,000 low-Earth orbit satellites, which have been approved by the FCC for operation and have requested permission for another 30,000. The company plans to launch another 1,440 satellites by 2020 and hopes to start providing Internet services worldwide by the end of next year. The company’s actions in the Kuiper case show that it is eager to protect the investment. SpaceX officials declined to speak.
As Christian Davenport notes in his book The Space Barons, SpaceX’s success in the commercial space industry is largely due to Musk’s willingness to launch regulatory and legal challenges against more well-funded competitors and federal agencies. This time, SpaceX has many allies.
According to FCC records, OneWeb, which has received FCC approval to accommodate 720 satellites and has requested approval for 1,260 satellites, has filed its own petition asking the FCC to reject Amazon’s application, and its lobbyists met with FCC staff on October 15 to discuss the Kuiper project. In the FCC’s first round of licensing of the band, other companies, including Telesat Canada, Theia Holdings and Iridium Communications, filed petitions.
OneWeb has previously protested the FCC’s decision to allow SpaceX to add satellites to the spectrum, but Amazon’s request is more complicated.
The FCC began accepting license applications for Ka-band frequencies in July 2016, with a deadline of November of that year. Twelve companies filed for applications, two of which later withdrew. The agency issued licences to nine applicants. Amazon was not one of the original licensed companies. It did not submit its application until nearly three years after the deadline and requested special exemptions to join on the same terms as the original licensee.
In its application, Amazon argued that such a waiver was appropriate because its services would be in the public interest and that advances in technology would allow the Kuiper satellite to better share the frequency that had been licensed to other companies. There are differing views on whether Amazon’s proposed level of coordination is technically economically feasible, with the companies involved.
SpaceX, OneWeb and others argue that the Kuiper project would greatly interfere with the cautious cooperation agreement they’ve been negotiating. “This has multiplied the complexity of the software,” Rusch said. “You can’t say nothing is impossible, but I would say it’s a challenge that can be overwhelming – to make many systems use the same frequency. “
Amazon declined an interview request, but a spokesman said: “We look forward to continuing our engagement with the FCC.” Amazon is committed to innovating on behalf of our customers, including realizing our vision for the Kuiper project to provide low-cost, high-speed broadband services to tens of millions of people living in underserved and underserved communities around the world. “