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Amazon reveals Australian launch plans for Project Kuiper

Amazon has confirmed that Australia will be one of the first countries to be offered its global LEOsat platform Project Kuiper. Kuiper Commercial Services APJ head Hannah Williams said yesterday that Australia will host one of the first demonstration sites for the satellite service, which will be tightly integrated with AWS cloud offerings.

Amazon used a Sydney AWS event to give a detailed explanation of the project’s enterprise focus, including end-to-end encryption and support for private networking, with customers able to transit data without it hitting the public internet.

Williams said that Amazon was in the process of installing ground infrastructure at hundreds of sites around the world, including Australia and New Zealand. Each satellite gateway will have a direct link to Amazon Web Services’ cloud infrastructure, she said during a keynote presentation at the AWS Summit in Sydney.

Australian Communications and Media Authority records show that Amazon has five fixed satellite service Area Wide Licences as well as a number of other apparatus licences related to the LEOsat constellation.

Williams said that Kuiper was a “big bet” for Amazon.

“Together, Amazon and AWS have the infrastructure, the resources to deliver on our mission,” she said.

Amazon principal solutions architect Nick Matthews told the conference that, globally, customer trials for Kuiper will begin in late 2024 with commercial services to follow in mid-2025, initially launching in North America, Europe and Japan. But Australia “follows that fairly closely,” he said.

Availability will track the progressive launch of the Kuiper satellites, which will form three shells 590km, 610km and 630km away from Earth. Bands of dense coverage will initially be available around 52 degrees N latitude, serving the US-Canada border, Central Europe and Japan. As more satellites are launched, coverage will extend towards and across the equator.

The Kuiper network core will be built out on AWS’s 20+ cloud regions. “Depending where you’re at, here in Australia, that would be Sydney or Melbourne,” he said. Once trafϐic travels from the gateway to the network core it can either be sent to the Internet or stay within AWS and potentially be routed to an organisation’s virtual private cloud environment.

Williams said the private connectivity service offered via Kuiper will have a “far reaching impact to government and enterprises across the globe.”

At the customer end, Amazon is planning three terminals with different performance capabilities, beginning with a DVD case-sized 17x17cm terminal capable of up to 100Mbps, a 23x23cm, 400Mbps terminal and an enterprise grade 76x50cm terminal capable of 1Gbps and equipped with dual antennas.

Amazon is bringing its manufacturing experience to bear on the challenge of reducing the upfront cost of connectivity, Matthews (pictured) said. “We’re investigating things like the cost of an LED, because maybe in Indonesia that could mean less customers.” It has been able to get the mid-range 400Mbps terminal production cost down to less than US$400.

“One of the things that’s interesting about Amazon is our scale,” he said. “So, for example, we have the ability to build chips inside of Amazon. We’ve done that with Graviton and Inferentia.”

“We’ve taken that approach to Kuiper, making sure that we build the right everything from the ground up inside of Kuiper to make sure we can get the right price and performance ratios. So that’s why the terminals we think are going to have the highest performance with the lowest cost.”

Amazon presently has two prototype satellites in space, which have passed all their tests. That means that the company can shift to commercial production, Matthews said. “And that’s what our teams are working on right now,” he told the conference. “They’re ramping up our production facilities to get to a point where we’re creating five satellites a day. There’s no recipe, there’s no Amazon book you can buy on how to produce five satellites a day. It's sort of a uniquely Amazon problem.”

The Kuiper satellites are equipped with optical inter-satellite links that will be able to deliver 100Gbps communication over 1000km to create a “space backbone over Earth.” “You can do things like choose the right place on ground to bring connectivity based upon either policy or where there’s more bandwidth,” he said.

“It also allows you to do things like connect cruise ships in the middle of the ocean, because there's no ground infrastructure, obviously, in the ocean. So the lasers are one of the hardest things we did, and it was a super large milestone for us.”

Amazon is currently in discussions around use cases ranging from basic connectivity and disaster recovery through to cellular backhaul and supporting remote 5G networks.

A mobility service that can support use cases such as cruise ships will “take a little bit more time” to launch, Matthews said. One issue is ensuring terminals address Doppler shift but the other issue relates to performance he said. Each service plan that gets purchased “basically assigns capacity in the system,” he said.

“Now, when people buy things that move around a lot, that just uses capacity in many different areas. So those are kind of the two challenges that we're working through on the mobility side.”

One use case highlighted at the event was digital inclusion, with Westpac national general manger, indigenous banking Bronwyn Dodd featured as a keynote speaker at the event. Dodd revealed that Westpac was in discussions with Amazon about the potential use of Project Kuiper to deliver services into remote indigenous communities. by Rohan Pearce, Commsday

 Australasia Satellite Forum 2024

Don't miss: Keynote by Amazon Kuiper's Ricky L. Freeman - President, KGS, LLC and Vice President for Amazon’s Kuiper Government Solutions.

Round Table: National and Regional Security, responsibilities of planning strategic satcom procurement to meet future demand, featuring Don Brown - Head of Global Government, Amazon Project Kuiper

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