Amazon's Kuiper Will Expand Private Satellite Network

NEW Microsoft Azure Satellite Diagram Updated 10 15 20

By: Mary Jander

In a hint that satellite could be a big new battlefront for cloud access, AWS has plans to extend worldwide private connectivity to its cloud services via Project Kuiper, Amazon's emerging satellite broadband service.

While details are scarce, word at the cloud provider’s AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas this week has it that Project Kuiper, initially presented as an alternative broadband Internet service for remote geographic locations, will also be the basis for providing enterprise cloud customers with private connections to their AWS services.

The news was hinted at today in a press release announcing a strategic collaboration between Project Kuiper and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, and NTT Communications Corporation, along with SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation. In addition to using Project Kuiper satellite service to broaden the reach of Internet services in remote areas of Japan, NTT will also offer Kuiper connectivity to enterprises:

“As a result of this collaboration, Japanese businesses will be able to use Project Kuiper connectivity to support a broad range of applications, including internet of things, predictive maintenance, fleet management, remote manufacturing, and more. Customers will also be able to use Project Kuiper to connect to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to run advanced technologies such as machine learning and AI.” [Emphasis added]

Project Kuiper isn’t part of AWS (it is instead part of Amazon’s Devices and Services group responsible for Kindle, Echo, Fire tablet, and similar consumer gear), but the NTT deal makes it clear that the cloud service will factor into the plans for LEO network. In today’s press statement, Tadao Nagasaki, president of AWS Japan, stated:

“AWS and NTT Group have a proven track record of innovating for our customers, and we’re excited to expand what is possible with Project Kuiper. The introduction of Project Kuiper connectivity services will give our customers new options for connecting remote locations and using the world’s leading secure, resilient, and flexible cloud provider to transform their operations.”

Emerging Customer Deals

It may take a while for NTT’s plan to materialize. Amazon has yet to launch any official low earth orbit (LEO) satellites at scale, though in October 2023, the company successfully launched two prototype LEOs. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will allow Amazon to launch a constellation of 3,236 LEOs over a period of several years. Amazon is obligated to launch at least half of those LEOs by July 2026. The company anticipates its first commercial customer launches by the end of 2024.

While NTT will be one of those customers, it’s not alone. In early November 2023, AWS announced plans to work with Project Kuiper on a Hybrid Space Architecture (HSA) effort sponsored by the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

AWS has also been active in the development of Amazon’s participation in Orbital Reef, a space station for LEOs designed by Blue Origin and Sierra Space. According to a press statement issued in April 2022:

“AWS will provide a variety of integrated cloud services and tools to support both near-term and long-term technical requirements including space station development and design, flight operations, data management, enterprise architecture solutions, and integrated networking, logistics, and communications capabilities.”

The Role of CloudFront

Another element in linking AWS to Project Kuiper is potentially AWS CloudFront, the cloud provider’s content delivery network. In a blog post dated November 26, Joe Bou-Dagher, AWS Edge & Media Services Lead, states:

“[T]he synergy of services like Amazon CloudFront and ambitious endeavors like Project Kuiper is … propelling high-speed connectivity to the forefront of global inclusivity initiatives.”

Given that CloudFront could be used for private connectivity for AWS customers, it’s likely that the addition of Project Kuiper broadband could facilitate a service that brings AWS by satellite to enterprise customers.