Internet has been around for decades. Yet, while most people in developed countries can’t imagine their lives without it, this service is lacking in underdeveloped areas. Even in countries where the internet is the norm, you might struggle to find service in rural or remote zones. With its Project Kuiper, Amazon aims to deliver fast and affordable broadband to underserved and unserved areas. Meanwhile, DIRECTV has been around for decades. Beyond live local and national TV, the company partners with AT&T to deliver internet to the masses. If you’re looking for a new provider, should you switch now or wait for Amazon’s service to become functional? This head-to-head between Amazon’s Kuiper and DIRECTV might help you decide.
Choosing the right broadband service can make the difference between slowly loading Chrome and binge-watching Netflix without any trouble in the world. Or, you know, work without fearing that a slow connection can get between you and your job. In this aspect, DIRECTV has been providing reliable internet for years. The coverage isn’t exactly widespread, but if it is available in your area, you could enjoy fiber internet at affordable prices.
Amazon’s Project Kuiper promises global coverage at affordable prices. However, the service has not been launched yet. In fact, Amazon’s satellites aren’t even in orbit yet, so we might have to wait at least a couple of years to see them functional. If you’re not hard-pressed to switch providers, you might want to wait. But is it worth it? While we don’t know much about Kuiper at the moment, here’s how the two services compare.
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. DIRECTV Internet: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Number of satellites in orbit
|None. Launch planned for 2024
|None owned by DIRECTV
|Some metropolitan areas in selected states
|Not in service yet
|300Mbps to 5Gbps
|Not in service yet
|$55 to $180 per month
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. DIRECTV Internet: What’s the Difference?
DIRECTV is a national provider of satellite television and on-demand TV. Until 2021, the company was owned by AT&T and provided internet services through the telecommunication giant. AT&T sold DIRECTV to private equity firm TPG in 2021. Yet, you can still get internet from DIRECTV. The provider remains AT&T, but you can link the internet plan to a TV bundle.
Project Kuiper is a satellite internet service in the making, the brainchild of Jeff Bezos and his global tech company Amazon. The technology giant aims to launch over 3,000 satellites into Low-Earth orbit within the next few years. Then, the plan is to vie with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and provide broadband internet globally.
These two services are fundamentally different, yet they do the same thing. If you wonder which is best for you, here’s an in-depth comparison between the two.
The crucial difference between Amazon’s Kuiper and DIRECTV internet is the way each company delivers the service. Relying on AT&T, DIRECTV provides fiber optic internet. This is a type of direct service line (DSL) internet that uses fiber optic instead of traditional cables. The fundamental difference between fiber optic cables and traditional ones is that the former transmits data by sending light across thin glass fibers. Traditional cables, instead, transmit information by sending electricity over copper wires or telephone lines.
Light travels faster than electricity, which is why fiber internet has the potential to transmit data at much higher speeds than cable internet. However, fiber internet still relies on cables – and fiber optic cables at that. Since these cables are not as readily available as electric cables, fiber internet is available in fewer areas. In fact, it is unlikely to find it in remote locations, even in areas that are served by cable or Wi-Fi internet. The difficulty of bringing this type of connectivity everywhere is the fiber optic installation as these cables run underground.
In contrast, project Kuiper is a satellite internet service. The first satellites are planned to reach the Low-Earth orbit in 2024, from where they will start delivering Wi-Fi internet via radio waves. In total, Amazon plans to launch 3,236 satellites that will orbit at some 590 to 630 kilometers (about 367 to 392 miles) above Earth. This may seem like a long distance, but it is actually short compared to geostationary satellites. The proximity to the Earth will allegedly allow Amazon to deliver fast and “affordable” internet, even though the affordable concept is not yet translated into upfront and monthly costs.
That said, Kuiper’s advantage over DIRECTV is the availability in areas where fiber optic cables cannot be installed. Meanwhile, DIRECTV will probably remain faster and more stable in adverse weather, so likely a better choice if you live in an already served area.
If DIRECTV might be a better choice in terms of speed and stability, Amazon’s Kuiper comes with an immense advantage in terms of coverage. Satellite constellations aren’t fixed installations like cables are. They can move around the Earth and reposition themselves in such a way as to provide global coverage. Amazon hasn’t disclosed yet in which area the service will become available, but we can assume everyone will get access to it.
DIRECTV is a national service, but it doesn’t cover all areas. The most likely reason behind its poor coverage is that DIRECTV doesn’t provide its own internet. Instead, it partners with AT&T. Fiber optic internet from the technology company is only available in selected metropolitan areas. In all other areas, AT&T provides traditional cable and Wi-Fi internet.
The tables turn again when it comes to speed. Again, it is difficult to compare a service that doesn’t exist with one that’s been around for years. Yet, considering the download and upload speeds of satellite internet services that are available, such as Starlink, things look rather grim. Sure, this service might become widely available, but Starlink’s download speed, for instance, is around 200Mbps.
When it comes to DIRECTV, the slowest – and cheapest – connection provides download speeds of 300Mbps. The fastest goes up to 5Gbps, which is lightning-fast. If Amazon’s satellites won’t bring major improvements in terms of speed, users in areas with access to fiber optic internet might be better off with the “old-school” option.
Another thing to consider when choosing an internet provider is the reliability of the service. In this aspect, DIRECTV also has an advantage. Since fiber optic cables travel underground, they are not subject to weather elements. Gusts of wind, storms, rain, and snow have no power over these cables. The only natural elements that could damage them are earthquakes. When running under the sea, they are also vulnerable to anchors and fishing trawlers. However, they rarely get damaged.
Satellite internet, much like satellite TV, uses radio waves to transmit data. Therefore, adverse weather elements can affect transmission. In fact, water molecules can absorb the energy required to transmit communication, resulting in a weaker or interrupted signal. Sure, light rain or a bit of fog will have no impact on the transmission quality. However, thunderstorms or heavy snow may result in interrupted connectivity.
From a lifespan standpoint, fiber optic cables are nearly indestructible. In contrast, satellites need more frequent replacement, a factor that could result in connectivity mishaps as well as a higher service cost.
Talking about costs, fiber optic internet has been around for a while. It is more expensive than cable internet, but it doesn’t require special routers or transmitters. In most cases, the monthly plan covers the router costs – unless you need a fancy option like a tri-band or quad-band modem. In that case, you can expect to spend $500 or more.
However, if you decide to go for satellite internet, spending hundreds on a satellite dish won’t be optional. Due to the high costs of these terminals, companies currently providing satellite internet don’t cover them. You might find deals that divide the initial payment into installments that are charged on your monthly bill, but most companies ask you to cover those costs upfront.
While spending hundreds or thousands to get access to a service might be affordable for some, it can definitely put a hole in the monthly budget for many.
In addition to initial installation costs, you should also consider the monthly payments. DIRECTV’s prices are higher compared to cable internet, but they don’t go over the top either. Deals for the slowest download speed – which, at 300Mbps, is still fast for the vast majority of users – starts at $55 per month. If you need faster internet, a plan including download speeds up to 5Gbps (GIG) will cost you around $180 per month.
For its part, Amazon hasn’t revealed how much its satellite internet service will cost. Starlink costs $110 per month, and a satellite internet plan from Viasat can set you back between $60 and $160 per month. This doesn’t seem excessive compared to DIRECTV until you find out that these prices refer to download speeds between 12 and 150Mbps. For now, at least, fiber optic internet is undoubtedly the best option.
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. DIRECTV Internet: Must-Known Facts
- Project Kuiper is Amazon’s satellite internet service. The project aims to bring the internet to unserved and underserved locations worldwide.
- DIRECTV is a national provider of satellite TV. It doesn’t provide its own internet, but it partners with AT&T to provide fiber optic internet to selected locations.
- DIRECTV’s coverage area is relatively small, but the service is available, reliable, and affordable.
- Amazon’s Kuiper promises global coverage, but it plans to launch its first satellites in 2024. It has not revealed the cost yet.
- Fiber optic internet has an advantage over satellite internet in terms of upfront costs and reliability. Weather does not affect fiber optic cables, and they can deliver very fast connectivity.
- Satellite internet has much slower download speeds compared to fiber optic. Its only actual vantage point at the moment is the coverage.
Amazon’s Kuiper vs. DIRECTV Internet: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?
Deciding between a service that doesn’t yet exist and one that’s been around for decades doesn’t require much sought. DIRECTV, if available in your area, is your only option at the moment. If you’d rather give satellite internet a try, you’ll have to opt for another service provider, such as Starlink or Viasat.
If you don’t want to switch internet providers now but want to weigh your options for the future, deciding between Amazon’s Kuiper and DIRECTV might come down to your location. The latter is only available in metropolitan areas in some states. The former could be available anywhere, but you’ll have to settle for slower speeds. You might also have to deal with the occasional weather interference and loss of signal. If these factors don’t bother you, Amazon’s Kuiper might be the internet of the future.
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