Verizon to Use Amazon’s Low Earth Orbit Satellites to Extend 4G and 5G

A giant Verizon 5G logo in a showroom.
Enlarge / A Verizon booth at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles in September 2018.

Verizon has made a deal to use Amazon’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to add capacity to Verizon’s cellular network and provide fixed wireless Internet service in rural areas of the US. Verizon said it will use connectivity satellite from Amazon for both consumers and large companies.

There will be no immediate changes to Verizon’s services because Amazon has said that its Project Kuiper division will not launch any satellites until at least 2023. yesterday announced a “strategic collaboration” in which they “have begun to develop technical specifications and define preliminary business models for a range of connectivity services for US consumers and global business customers operating in rural and remote locations around the world.”

Verizon already offers LTE home internet service in rural areas and 5G residential Internet service in urban areas. But availability is limited, and Verizon plans to use Amazon Kuiper to expand its wireless landline offerings.

“To begin with, Amazon and Verizon will focus on expanding Verizon’s data networks using Project Kuiper cellular backhaul solutions,” the Verizon announcement said. “The integration will take advantage of antenna development already in progress by the Kuiper Project team, and both engineering teams are now working together to define technical requirements to help extend fixed wireless coverage to rural and remote communities in the States. United”. Using Kuiper for cellular backhaul “will extend Verizon’s 4G / LTE and 5G data networks” in those rural and remote communities, Verizon said.

Service “a few years away”

Verizon told CNET that Kuiper-powered customer service is “a few years away” and that the deal is not exclusive to Verizon and Amazon. Thus, Verizon could partner with additional satellite companies and Amazon could offer its satellite connectivity to other cell phone operators. Verizon also said it intends to use the Amazon Kuiper “to make the entire map of the United States red,” in other words, to fill in coverage gaps where Verizon’s wireless connectivity is weak or non-existent.

While Verizon / Amazon’s plans are vague now as they are still at an early stage, the companies said they will “explore joint connectivity solutions for national and global companies in agriculture, energy, manufacturing, education, emergency response, transportation and other industries.. “

Amazon plans to use Kuiper to “serve individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses and other organizations that operate in places where Internet access is limited or unavailable,” the announcement noted. Amazon has US approval to launch 3,236 low-Earth orbit satellites and says it plans to invest more than $ 10 billion in the project. In contrast, SpaceX Starlink has been providing the LEO satellite internet service in beta for about a year, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the service will come out of beta this month.

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