The news media is abuzz with lots of information about the Amazon Kuiper Satellites. What exactly is Amazon Kuiper, and how does it compare to cable internet? Are you ready to drop your current internet service provider and jump on the Kuiper bandwagon?
Today let’s jump into the great debate over Amazon’s Kuiper and how it compares to standard cable. Let’s see where the facts — not the marketing hype — lead us. Jump in with us!
Satellite vs. Cable Internet: A Quick Primer
Satellite internet connections aren’t new. You can find products from HughesNet or Viasat readily available for purchase.
A satellite in geostationary orbit follows the same orbit as the Earth and is located close to the equator. Positioned approximately 22,000 miles above the Earth, these satellites (HughNet or Vissat) already provide internet access to remote communities.
The downside to geostationary orbiting satellites is the high latency. Latency is a measurement of how long it takes for a signal to travel from one point/computer to another point/computer. Geostationary satellites typically have latency ranges of 450 to 700ms. You can’t effectively use a geostationary satellite for online gaming or video conferencing.
With a higher elevation, satellites in Geostationary Orbits cover a broader swath of the Earth. HughesNet has three satellites, Jupiter 1 and 2 are in orbit, and Jupiter 3 will launch in Q2 23. VisSat has three satellites, ViaSat-1, ViaSat-2, and a soon-to-be ViaSat-3.
Low Earth Orbit
Satellites in low Earth orbit aren’t tied to their position at the equator and are located approximately 340 miles above the Earth’s surface. The satellites have a lower (faster) latency because the signal’s travel distance is much shorter. Starlink satellites are reporting latency times of 25 to 50 milliseconds.
The satellite’s closer proximity to the Earth results in a smaller area that can receive a signal from the satellite. Starlink has approximately 3,800 satellites in orbit. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved Starlink for up to 7,500 satellites, and Amazon already has FCC approval for 3,236 satellites.
Your Friendly Cable Internet
It’s not super sexy, and it’s not circling the Earth, but hey, that internet cable in the wall has a latency of about 13 to 27 milliseconds. It’s faster than satellite connections. (Just saying.)
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. Cable: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Amazon Kuiper: Ultra Compact||Amazon Kuiper: Standard|
|Download Speed||100 Mbps||400 Mbps|
|Cost Per Month||TBD||TBD|
|Amazon Kuiper: Pro||Cable: Xfinity|
|Download Speed||1 Gbps||5-50 Mbps|
|Upload Speed||TBD||10-500 Mbps|
|Cost Per Month||TBD||$45-$130|
|Cable: AT&T||Cable: Verizon Wireless|
|Download Speed||75–100 Mbps||300-1,500 Mbps|
|Upload Speed||8–20 Mbps||300-1,500 Mbps|
|Cost Per Month||$55||$24.99–$94.99|
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. Cable: What’s the Difference?
There are key differentiating factors between Amazon’s Kuiper and cable. Let’s look at the key determining factors.
We’d be remiss not to mention the elephant in the room. Amazon’s Kuiper product lineup isn’t available today and won’t be available tomorrow, either. The Amazon marketing team is doing a great job of hyping a product that won’t be available to “some customers” until the back half of 2024. A more realistic expectation is later in 2025.
This year, in 2023, rockets will start lifting off from Earth to place Kuiper satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). There’s only a product to sell once enough Kuiper satellites reside in LEO to support broadband data transmission.
Amazon Kuiper uses thousands of LEO satellites that connect to Earth-side internet connection points. Amazon’s goal is to provide reliable broadband internet access to geographic locations that lack reliable high-speed internet access.
- If you live in a densely populated city, you may not need to utilize Amazon’s Kuiper. You already have good coverage!
- A heavily reduced cost may be introduced (in the future) to entice city-dwelling customers to leave existing service providers.
Uses the preexisting cable television infrastructure to provide high-speed internet access.
- You’re golden if you live in a densely populated city or suburb. You likely have several different cable internet options.
- If you live outside a densely populated city, you might need help. Cable companies want to avoid paying to set up the infrastructure to support one tiny house in the remote woods.
In many ways, Amazon Kuiper will only compete with Starlink for the lowest price. Cable is going to be cheaper — way cheaper.
|Required Equipment Cost||Monthly Use Fee|
|Ultra-Compact||Materially less than the Standard plan||Approx ≦ $110*|
|Standard||$400+ markup||Approx ≦ $200*|
|Pro||Unknown||Approx ≦ $500*|
|Cable-Modem Wi-Fi||$90 (one-time purchase)||Monthly rental $51|
|Internet Signal/Bandwidth||Not applicable||$20-150|
- COMPATIBLE WITH Cox, Xfinity by Comcast, and Spectrum
- NOT COMPATIBLE WITH AT&T, Verizon, DISH, CenturyLink, DirecTV, DSL providers, and any service bundled with voice
- CARRIER SPEEDS: Xfinity (up to 200Mbps), Spectrum (up to 300Mbps), Cox (up to 150Mbps).
- 1500 square feet wireless coverage, 25 connected devices, at a speed of up to 1600Mbps.
- Comes with 1 USB port and 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports
*Amazon hasn’t announced prices for the Kuiper satellite hardware or the monthly user fees.
- Amazon did discuss their manufacturing cost for the Standard Kuiper model and specified the manufacturing price is approximately $400. (This is significantly cheaper than Starlink’s manufacturing cost).
- Amazon Kuiper’s monthly cost for the different plans is all “less” than Starlink’s cost. Amazon isn’t sharing its price, but a reasonable conclusion is that it will be less than Starlink’s price.
Head-to-Head Cost Evaluation Hardware
- A decent cable-modem Wi-Fi setup will cost about $90.
- The mid-level Amazon Kuiper hardware is expected to cost at least $400.
Cost Evaluation Monthly Use Fee
- AT&T, Comcast, Charter, and Verizon have an approximate cost of $20-150.
- Amazon Kuiper’s approximate cost is $100-$500.
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. Cable: 6 Must-Know Facts
- The Amazon Kuiper models have yet to be made available. Prototype testing will begin during the back half of 2023. Consumers may see a product rollout in late 2024.
- Amazon will manufacture three satellites every week in 2023/2024.
- Amazon expects to have 3,236 satellites in orbit by the end of 2028.
- Amazon has scheduled 83 launches in the next five years to place satellites into orbit.
- Cable internet tends to have faster latency (13 to 27 milliseconds) than Low Earth Orbit satellites (25 to 50 milliseconds).
- Cable is cheaper than Amazon’s Kuiper product line. The infrastructure for cable is already built, installed, and (mostly) paid for. Kuiper (and Starlink) products will require a hefty upfront consumer investment to purchase the necessary hardware.
Amazon Kuiper vs. Cable: Which One is Better for You?
As technology stands today, you don’t have a choice yet to select Amazon’s Kuiper as your new internet service provider. You’re going to use cable internet because Amazon’s Kuiper technology platform has yet to exist on a consumer level. (We know, buzzkill. If you live somewhere without cable internet providers, you can investigate Starlink or HughesNet.)
Amazon’s Kuiper platform may be an excellent option for geographically remote locations in a few years. The whole concept of the Kuiper product platform is to provide high-speed internet service to underserved geographic locations. Underserved geographic locations may be a thick strand of woods just a few miles outside a major city!
We’ll look forward to Kuiper when it arrives, but that arrival date isn’t anytime soon in 2023. Stick to cable internet or investigate other high-speed connectivity options for now.