News & Analysis

The Battle for Satellite Internet 

Elon Musk may have stolen a march with much-hyped SpaceX satellite internet service, but Amazon strongman Jeff Bezos is all set to lift off

We may like him or hate him, but we definitely cannot ignore Elon Musk. The rate at which he follows up on ideas that appear outrageous initially is one thing and it’s quite another when the rest of the world then follows through. His SpaceX project of providing satellite-based Internet is now witnessing competition – that too from many parts of the world.

The closest to Musk is Jeff Bezoz. The Amazon honcho received US Federal Communications Commission approvals for Project Kuiper, which aims to deliver high-speed internet access from outer space. The company is slated to launch test versions of satellites in May to take on SpaceX’s Starlink and tap into a market that potentially boasts of millions of users. 

It’s space war between Musk and Bezos

Of course, there are others hoping to get their fingers into this pie, but by the looks of things at this point in time, Starlink and Amazon seem to be the big ones, says a report published in the MIT Technology Review. The report quotes Tim Farrar, a satellite expert from US-based TMF Associates to suggest that the Musk-Bezos face-off is a head-to-head rivalry. 

The report said the rocket scheduled to launch the two Kuiper satellites was assembled at Cape Canaveral in Florida and its first mission would be to launch two prototypes called KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 on May 4. In the long run, Amazon hopes to put more than 3200 full Kuiper satellites into orbit within the next six years, the first going up in 2024. . 

The original and the copycat 

Over the past few years, several companies have revealed their satellite-based internet plans, both as commercial ventures as well as social ones that involve providing the service to remote locations with minimal access. Starlink, which is the biggest such venture, currently boasts more than 3,500 satellites built and launched by Musk’s SpaceX. 

Project Kuiper hit the headlines in 2019, almost coinciding with Starlink’s launch of satellites with the irrepressible Musk taking to Twitter (which he now owns) to call Jeff Bezos a copycat. However, there are others in the race too with the Bharti Enterprises-owned OneWeb already having 600-plus satellites to create a network for internet services. 

Bharti Group has already stolen a march

Of course, India’s very own telecom service providers aren’t far when it comes to making some grand announcements. Two of the three service providers, vizReliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, have already gone to town with their plans of launching satellite-based internet services in the country last year, with the companies receiving government clearances for the same. 

This comes at a time when India’s own satellite launch facility made headlines by launching 36 satellites belonging to OneWeb a couple of days back through the efforts of NewSpace India Limited and the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota. “​​This mission marks OneWeb’s second satellite deployment from India, highlighting OneWeb’s commitment to provide connectivity across the length and breadth of India,” says a press statement. 

Meanwhile, the Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio Satellite Communications Ltd (JSCL), the satellite unit of Reliance Jio Infocomm, had received a ‘letter of intent’ from the telecom department for offering satellite communication services last September. This allows the company to provide global mobile personal communications by satellite services in permitted areas. The company had set up a joint venture last February with Luxembourg’s satellite-based connectivity provider SES to offer satellite-based broadband services in India. 

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