With our lives strongly intertwined with the online world, a fast and reliable internet connection is a must in most homes. Yet, cable and fiber optic internet is often limited to metropolitan areas and easy-to-reach places. While satellite internet has been around for some time, it still isn’t widely available. Amazon plans to change this with the upcoming launch of Project Kuiper. The first satellites should have reached orbit already, but delays pushed back the timeline. Nevertheless, the tech giant announced that the first satellites will reach the Low-Earth orbit in the first half of 2024. If everything goes smoothly, Kuiper will become widely available by 2026. Meanwhile, Xfinity is the largest fiber internet provider in the USA. If you need a new provider, should you wait for Bezos to launch its service or get Comcast? This side-by-side comparison between Amazon’s Kuiper and Comcast (Xfinity) might help you choose the right option.
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. Comcast (Xfinity): Side-by-Side Comparison
|Ralph Roberts, Julian A. Brodsky, and Daniel Aaron
|Cable and fiber internet
|Number of satellites in orbit
|None. Launch planned for 2024
|None owned by Comcast
|Metropolitan areas in 40 states
|Not in service yet
|75Mbps to 1.2Gbps
|Not in service yet
|$19 to $80 per month
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. Comcast (Xfinity): What’s the Difference?
Project Kuiper is a not-yet-launched satellite internet service. Developed by Jeff Bezos and his team at Amazon, this ambitious project aims to bring the internet to the unserved and underserved areas — not only in America, but across the world. To do this, Bezos plans to launch 3,236 satellites by 2026. The first Kuiper satellites are currently planned to reach orbit in the first half of 2024. Then, the service will be beta-tested. If all goes well, Amazon’s satellites will vie with those of Starlink to bring “affordable” satellite internet to the masses.
Comcast (Xfinity) is a national provider of cable television and cable and fiber internet. The company introduced its first service of high-speed internet in 2000 and became the largest internet provider in the USA by 2009. Since then, the corporation has expanded to Europe, where its TV and internet services are provided under the brand name Sky. Yet, Comcast (Xfinity) internet is not available everywhere. Like most cable and fiber internet services, Comcast’s network hasn’t reached the more remote areas. Even in the USA, the company’s services are only available in 40 states. Here’s an in-depth comparison between the two services.
The main difference between Amazon’s Kuiper and Comcast (Xfinity) is the type of technology each company uses to deliver its services.
Project Kuiper was founded in 2019 with the sole purpose of bringing the internet to the unserved or underserved remote areas. Sure, it will be available in metropolitan areas too. However, the only way to bring internet to areas where cable or fiber optic installation is not possible is by delivering it wirelessly. Project Kuiper aims to do exactly that through satellite transmission.
The service works more or less like satellite TV. Users will have to install a receiver that is similar to the TV dish. Technicians point this dish in the direction of the satellites, allowing the receiver to capture the signal and translate it so that your terminal can convert the incoming data into a workable internet connection. The terminal is a router or modem similar to the ones you’re using for cable or fiber internet.
Comcast (Xfinity) is a provider of cable or fiber internet similar to DIRECTV (AT&T). The technology used to deliver the internet depends on the type of network available in a specific area. Cable internet is delivered through copper or telephone wires. This internet form is currently the most widespread, as it can easily reach areas where electricity or telephone lines are already installed. Fiber optic cables have been used to link computers together since 1975, albeit they only became available to the masses in 1996.
To date, fiber optic delivers the fastest internet. The main advantage of these cables is the use of light to transmit data over large distances in the blink of an eye. In fact, fiber optic cables work by sending light impulses across thin glass fibers, which are thinner than a human’s hair in diameter. Since light travels faster than any other type of impulse, fiber internet can reach download speeds higher than 5Gbps.
Wired and wireless technologies both come with advantages and drawbacks. An advantage for satellite internet — and, consequently, for Amazon’s Kuiper — is the availability. Satellite internet is a form of wireless internet that can be made available anywhere. As long as you have a receiver and modem or router, it won’t matter whether you’re accessing the internet from Downtown New York or the middle of nowhere.
Comcast (Xfinity) might be the largest internet provider in the US, but even it can’t compete with Kuiper’s availability. Currently, Comcast covers 40 states. Its internet services are not available anywhere in those states, however. Fiber internet is only available in metropolitan areas.
The main difficulty is the installation of fiber optic cables, which run underground – sometimes even under large bodies of water. In areas with difficult terrains, these cables are challenging or impossible to install, which is why bringing fast internet to remote zones is difficult.
You might be able to get cable internet from Comcast in rural locations, but that’s not a guarantee. Checking the availability in your area is easy, though. Simply visit Xfinity’s website and type in your address to see if you can get Comcast internet.
Comcast (Xfinity) might lose in terms of availability, but it wins the round when it comes to speed. Various bundles deliver download speeds between 70Mbps and 1.2Gbps. While 70Mbps seems very low, you should consider that the satellite internet available today isn’t much faster — and it is often slower. In fact, in the case of satellite internet, download speeds rarely exceed 100Mbps and are often slower than 50Mbps.
With Project Kuiper, Amazon also aims to fix this discrepancy. According to an official declaration from the tech giant, Kuiper boasts one of the most powerful customer terminals with download speeds that could go up between 400Mbps to 1Gbps. It is still early to tell whether this claim is true, but if it is, it could be a true game changer for customers worldwide.
Speed and availability are not the only things to check when choosing an internet provider. Equally important is the reliability of the service. In this aspect, too, Comcast (Xfinity) is superior at the moment. Whether it’s cable or fiber internet, the service suffers fewer instances of interference than satellite internet.
Cable internet is less reliable than fiber due to the exposed wires that are easier to damage compared to fiber optic cables. The latter is a network that runs underground or under the sea. The only natural element that could damage it is an earthquake. However, quakes rarely manage to interrupt connections or break these cables.
Aside from earthquakes, cables running underwater are also at risk of damage by fishing trawlers and anchors. In this case, too, there is little to worry about, as the probability of a trawler or anchor damaging these sturdy cables is remote.
The satellite internet is not as lucky. This technology relies on radio waves to transmit the signal through the atmosphere to the receiver. Adverse weather, such as storms, strong winds, and snow, typically interfere with the signal quality, causing disruptions. Water droplets in the atmosphere can also absorb radio waves and affect the connection speed. To date, fiber internet is the most reliable type of connection.
For many, the driving factor when selecting a service is the cost. Amazon’s Kuiper and Comcast (Xfinity) both charge a professional installation fee for installation in new locations. While Amazon hasn’t talked much about prices, Comcast’s installation fee is around $89.99.
The monthly service fee varies based on the bundle (including upload and download speed and other factors). Personal customers can expect to pay between $19 and $80 per month. Considering that similar services charge over $100 for speeds greater than 1Gbps, Comcast truly is affordable.
You don’t have to buy the modem or router from Comcast, although using their receiver can improve the user experience. Typically, the modem will be charged monthly on your bill. Once you’ve paid the entire amount, the device is yours to keep. Otherwise, you can opt to rent the router called Xfinity xFi Gateway. In this case, you’ll have to return it at the end of the contract.
As far as Kuiper goes, Amazon only disclosed that the receiver would likely cost under $400. While the cost is somewhat affordable, it is more expensive than a router. Regarding installation fees and monthly costs, we’ll likely find out more about them by 2024.
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. Comcast (Xfinity): 5 Must-Known Facts
- Amazon’s Kuiper is a satellite internet service in the making. The tech giant plans to launch the first satellites in 2024 and make the service available by 2026.
- Comcast (Xfinity) is the largest internet provider in the USA. It doesn’t provide any Wi-Fi or satellite internet options, but it delivers high-speed broadband via copper and fiber optic cables.
- Fiber internet from Comcast (Xfinity) is available in metropolitan areas in 40 states. Cable internet is more widespread but still confined to the 40 states in which Comcast has a presence.
- Project Kuiper, together with Elon Musk’s satellites, aims to deliver global coverage. It is especially focused on bringing the internet to the unserved and underserved areas.
- Comcast (Xfinity) is an affordable provider of broadband internet. Kuiper promises affordable prices, but it will likely be more expensive.
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. Comcast (Xfinity): Which One Is Better?
It is unfair to judge a service that doesn’t exist against one that has provided reliable internet for decades. However, with what we know about satellite internet so far, Kuiper is up for a true challenge. Unless it manages to revolutionize the satellite internet world — with truly fast speeds and improved reliability in adverse weather — it won’t be better than Comcast.
That said, if you’re looking for an internet provider right now, Comcast (Xfinity) is your only option between these two. If you want to give Project Kuiper a chance, you’ll have to wait for a few more years until the service becomes available to the masses.
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