Last week, President Biden signed an Executive Order, among other things, encourages research into how to provide greater choice in internet access. Many people, especially in apartments and condos, only have a single choice in ISPs because of agreements between the complex and a particular service provider. One company that has taken on this challenge on its own is Starlink, the Elon Musk-backed satellite internet company. With a good idea comes competition, and this will be coming in the form of the Amazon-backed Project Kuiper.
Project Kuiper is another satellite-powered internet project, which got a big boost in its deployment. Obviously, the startup cost for any business that relies on custom satellites is going to be high, and the amount of time it takes to go from zero to fully functional can be immense. Oftentimes, the quickest way to get going (if you're well-funded) is to purchase a competing project that already has hardware in space.
That is exactly what happened with Amazon this week, as Amazon added some satellites that Facebook launched in 2018 as part of a research experiment. The Information reported first of the acquisition, which has seen the transfer of Facebook's technology, as well as a small number of employees, to the Amazon project. Facebook commented on the purchase, which was confirmed by both Facebook and Amazon this week, saying,
it has not been our plan to launch a constellation of satellites, become an ISP, mobile operator, or tech vendor. We've long held the belief that satellite technology will enable the next generation of broadband infrastructure, and as part of our ongoing connectivity efforts, this team was focused on designing and testing new ways to advance satellite connectivity using optical communications and radio frequency systems and solutions. We are really proud of the work this team has accomplished and are excited to see what they will continue to build (at Amazon).
This acquisition is just the beginning of a future constellation of satellites, which will become the company's Starlink competitor. Unfortunately, Project Kuiper is far behind the SpaceX project. Starlink has already begun taking orders for service (including from our CES partner Todd Cochrane, as well as providing service in beta form to around 10,000 users. The company believes that it will have near-global coverage by the end of August of this year.
Project Kuiper, however, does not plan to begin the launch of its own installation until 2023. This suggests that it will likely be several years before the project is up and running to a point where they will be ready to accept customers. While this move puts them a little ahead of their timeline, it won't get a service up and running within even a few years of Starlink.
Meanwhile, Facebook will continue working with partners in building infrastructure to improve the overall performance of satellites. They hope that these infrastructure improvements will help in bringing a better internet experience to rural areas and other hard to reach markets which are generally ignored or neglected.