Amazon to DC: Can you clean up the space junk?
Amazon plans to have broadband service by the second half of next year, and half of its 3,200 satellite constellation by mid-2026.
While Amazon says it doesn’t need government help, but says it probably will accept it, policymakers in Washington say they don’t want this nascent industry as a whole to grow into a new vehicle for innovation in America. Looking for ways to help. But US leaders are still debating how best to nurture an industry facing regulatory challenges. Lawmakers and federal officials are actively debating how to streamline the licensing of such satellite systems, while government agencies are debating when to grant broadband subsidies.
And tied to all of this is how it will compete with China as it expands into low Earth orbit.
The prospect of space-based high-speed internet has many excited about the potential to provide connectivity to far-flung parts of the Earth, but Amazon and SpaceX are working together to process orbital debris and bring it to Earth. We face hurdles such as keeping the skies clear for upper astronomers.The Federal Communications Commission recently Amazon’s Latest Plan Approved It helps mitigate space debris from our own satellites and pave the way for these launches.
Limp spoke to POLITICO about how governments should help the industry, how artificial intelligence could help Amazon’s broadband program, and who its first potential customers might be.
Limp’s conversation with POLITICO has been edited for length and clarity.
Amazon has announced that it plans to launch its broadband service by the end of 2024. Who will be your first customer?
Think Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and under Argentina and Australia. Our first service may be at such latitudes. My guess is that in 2024 we’ll be able to start things with hundreds of satellites. My guess is that the early customers are probably corporate customers. Imagine someone with a pipeline that wants to provide connectivity to an offshore oil well.
Amazon is Proposing 3 types of customer terminals, including “standard” models under $400. How much would it cost to make the other two, the larger high-bandwidth version and the ultra-compact version?
Larger antennas are more expensive. It is intended for corporate use. That’s gigabit performance, with even more Merlin chips. Verizon uses something like that for its remote 5G towers. The smaller one is significantly lower in terms of construction and materials.
What are the technical constraints on scaling up broadband speeds over time? The US government is aggressively adopting fiber broadband networks because of their status as a “future proof” investment.
I’m trying to hit the 400 megabit sweet spot here. Do customers want more? No question. However, you can have multiple real-time 4K streams at home and enough bandwidth for telemedicine.
Indeed, I find it difficult to argue that it does not meet today’s needs.
If I were a member of Congress in West Virginia, North Dakota, or Montana, there would be communities where fiber would never prevail. It’s ridiculous and irresponsible for taxpayers to dig trenches that far. I would like to provide the customer with two of those satellite dishes. Our infrastructure investments should be used to secure fiber in our cities and dense suburbs. But when you venture out into rural, sparse suburban communities, a low-Earth orbit satellite makes a lot of sense.
We want the United States to spend tens of billions of dollars subsidizing the building of broadband infrastructure and subsidizing these underserved and underserved areas of the country. I’m watching you Would Amazon be interested in bidding on this type of grant?
Our business model does not assume that. But if we can help and taxpayer money can help underserved people, we want to help. . We built Kuiper to be a great standalone business that doesn’t require a government, and we applaud the government for trying to help make this happen faster.
Do you have any specific questions from the government regarding Kuiper?
space safety. The space is big, but it’s getting more and more crowded. We want to keep space safe and reduce orbital debris. We will continue to speak out on that topic.
The second place we’ve been vocal is using the spectrum in a responsible way. By the way, that’s true for us, but it’s true for everyone else, too. If they are using it, agree to coordinate with other users so that you do not interfere, depending on the order in which the license was applied.
We are very pleased with what we have seen around the world, and no doubt here in the United States that the FCC is willing to listen.
SpaceX is a major company that has already launched Starlink satellite service. What competitive advantage could Amazon bring to Kuiper’s launch?
I doubt this will be a sports race with only one winner. There will be multiple winners here. I don’t think there are a huge number of constellations — they’re just too expensive. There are probably some commercial constellations and then maybe some national constellations over time.
That said, I believe there is much more consumer demand, enterprise demand, and government demand than the few constellations we can offer.
We believe that Kuiper distinguishes itself from other zodiac signs. Otherwise, I don’t want to do it. First and foremost, customer service — you can call Amazon 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can call a representative by phone and ask where your box is or why your Kindle isn’t working. Not often seen in the networking industry.
We operate very large networks on AWS every day and we believe we can bring that expertise to this.
Finally, there is the AWS connection. Many of these workloads run in the cloud. Running your streaming media service in the same cloud where Kuiper runs provides lower latency and higher reliability. Regional point of view.
How does artificial intelligence fit in? Recent AI innovations have received a lot of attention in Washington.
For the last decade, I have been saying that we are in the golden age of AI. The fact that we are in a new phase of AI is an advancement in this golden age.
With the rise of these generative AI algorithms, we see another step function change. Perhaps most notably, large language models. And they are doing amazing things too. And you can see it on DALL-E and ChatGPT. They are also used internally by Amazon. Alexa’s teacher model is a multi-billion parameter model, a language model at scale, which basically takes away most of the work of moving from one language to another. When we wrote an Alexa feature in German and had to port it to Spanish, we had to do a ton of work. Tagging and language and linguists had to get involved, and computer science had to get involved. This large language model now understands how to build a general-purpose language. So you can translate all these different things side by side.
When it relates to something like Kuiper, which is the application layer, obviously people are going to be doing all sorts of things over networks. Intelligent management of your network when running high volumes of traffic. And every time we understand how to better route that traffic, or better compress that traffic, and make decisions based on that, we can deliver a better customer experience. And there is no doubt that the latest generation of AI technology can help.
Policymakers in Washington see these debates as a global technology race between the United States and China, and often express a desire to develop a U.S.-based champion. What do you think of that lens?
There is a huge opportunity for the public and private sectors to work more closely together. AWS has very close relationships with the US government across various groups. Although not exclusively, it operates data centers for the US government.
It has never been truer that truthful information is the pathway to freedom. In a world far more complex than it was 10-15 years ago, there are more and more tools available to keep the truth out of the way. One of these tools is to limit connections. So Kuiper has an opportunity to help ensure the public sector is connected.
What’s the biggest challenge moving Kuiper forward? You’ve alluded to supply chain constraints in the past.
Most of our supply chain problems are behind us. If you had asked that question a year ago or 18 months ago, you would have given a very different answer because we are in a very different time.
Space is difficult. Space is a harsh environment. There’s a lot to learn about radiation, heat, and orbital risks. we are challenging. But this is like the early days when Amazon decided to get into consumer electronics and build the first Kindle. They had to build that muscle.
We’re building similar muscles around the universe, but we don’t know everything we don’t know yet.