Satellite internet has the potential to transform the digital landscape and bridge the digital divide, providing access to the internet to remote and underdeveloped areas.
With Amazon‘s reputation for pushing the boundaries and innovating in new spaces, it’s no surprise that their looming entry into the market with Project Kuiper has caused quite a buzz. But will they be able to outshine Inmarsat, an established player with decades of experience? Is it worth making the switch, or should you stick with the tried-and-true?
This article will provide your with a low-down on how Amazon’s Kuiper and Inmarsat stack up against each other as they face off in the battle for satellite internet supremacy.
Kuiper vs. Inmarsat: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Founded||2019 in Washington, USA||1979 in London, UK|
|Primary Service Offerings||Broadband services||Telephone and data services for global mobile services and a portfolio of global narrowband and wideband connectivity services and managed network solutions|
|Customer Base||Individual consumers and enterprises||Governments, aviation, maritime, communication and media organizations|
|Frequency Band||Ku band||Multiple (L-band, C-band, S-band)|
|Broadband Data Speed||Up to 1 Gbps||Up to 330 Mbps|
|Satellite Constellation||LEO (Low Earth Orbit)||GEO (Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit)|
|Cost||Amazon expects to produce standard customer terminals for less than $400 each. Monthly charges have not been announced.||From $79.99 for 20MB to $625 for 10000 MB (monthly).|
Amazon’s Project Kuiper: What You Need to Know
Amazon’s Project Kuiper is a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation that aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband on a global scale (and lock horns with Elon Musk’s Starlink in the process). The project will build a network of 3,236 satellites, with plans to launch 1,500 satellites over the next five years.
Amazon has already invested more than $10 billion in Project Kuiper and received authorization from the Federal Communications Commission. The first two Project Kuiper prototype satellites are set to launch as early as May this year.
The United Launch Alliances’ new Vulcan Centaur rocket is lined up to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida a few months from now for the inaugural launch of the prototypes, with the actual satellites KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 set to launch in 2024.
For now, this new kid on the block is focused on providing broadband services to individual consumers and enterprises. They’ve yet to announce any intentions of expanding into other industries, but it’s possible they may do so in the future.
Interestingly, Kuiper’s goal of providing global satellite coverage in the broadband market puts it in direct competition with Starlink, which has already established a presence on multiple continents. While Kuiper is a new player in the market, its strong backing from Amazon, along with its commitment to innovation, suggests that it has the potential to give Starlink a run for its money.
Inmarsat: What is it?
Inmarsat is a British satellite telecommunications company that provides telephone and data services to users worldwide through geostationary telecommunications satellites. It offers global mobile services and a portfolio of global narrowband and wideband connectivity services and managed network solutions.
Its services are primarily used by governments, and corporations like, media organizations in over 60 countries.
Kuiper vs. Inmarsat: What’s the Difference?
Now that we’ve gotten to know these two services, let’s take a closer look at what truly sets these internet service providers apart.
Customer Base and Coverage
Kuiper and Inmarsat take opposite tacks when it comes to satellite coverage. Kuiper aims to reach individuals and enterprises the world over, which would be impressive but is no small feat, considering the sheer size of the planet. As the company has yet to launch any satellites, it remains to be seen how effective its coverage will be once it does.
Mainly operating behind-the-scenes, Inmarsat is the Swiss Army knife of the telecommunication world. It offers a range of services, including maritime, aviation, and government communications, in addition to their broadband service through its massive web of partners and service providers.
Inmarsat provides global coverage but mainly focuses on serving governments, aid agencies, transport, communication, and media organizations. This makes sense, as such a clientele requires reliable communication even in remote areas.
Inmarsat already has a proven track record of providing dependable service to her customers, making it a great choice for corporate clients. Inmarsat’s satellites provide coverage for about one-third of the Earth’s surface per satellite.
Interestingly, Kuiper’s goal of providing global satellite coverage in the broadband market puts it in direct competition with Starlink, which has already established a presence in multiple continents. While Kuiper is a new player in the market, its strong backing from Amazon, along with its commitment to innovation, suggests that it has the potential to give Starlink a run for its money.
The choice of satellite constellation can make a huge difference in the kind of broadband services offered by satellite companies. Kuiper is set to use LEO satellite constellation to deliver its broadband services, which means its satellites will be positioned much closer to Earth.
LEO satellites reduce the latency to a great extent and increase the connection speed significantly compared to GEO satellites. This is because the distance the signals have to travel between the satellite and the receiver is shorter. Starlink also uses the LEO satellite constellation.
Unlike Kuiper, Inmarsat uses a GEO (geosynchronous equatorial orbit or simply geostationary orbit) satellite constellation. This means its satellites are positioned much farther away from Earth but provide wider coverage. In a GEO orbit, a satellite’s orbital period matches the rotation period of the Earth. The satellite thus appears stationary in the sky relative to a fixed point on the ground.
With this configuration, the signals travel a longer distance between the satellite and the receiver. This increases latency but it would still help in regions without other means of internet connectivity, such as the seas.
Data Transfer Speeds
Kuiper will be all about speed, aiming to provide lightning-fast broadband services of up to 1 Gbps. That means downloading movies, games, and other large files will only take seconds, making streaming and online gaming a breeze and buffering and lagging a thing of the past. This will be possible thanks to Kuiper’s use of the higher frequency Ku band.
The Ku band offers faster data transfer rates, making it perfect for streaming videos, downloading large files, and other data-intensive activities. However, it requires larger antennas to receive signals.
While their speeds may not be as fast as Kuiper’s, with up to 330 Mbps, Inmarsat’s connection is still plenty fast for most tasks, be it browsing the web or navigational purposes. That’s because Inmarsat primarily utilizes the L-band and C-band, which have a lower frequency but longer wavelengths.
L-band and C-band signals can penetrate through obstacles and are suitable for mobile and handheld devices like smartphones, tablets, and GPS systems. The reliable L-band also makes it possible for Inmarsat to serve its maritime and aviation customers who require mobility and remote connectivity.
For Kuiper, Amazon has revealed three terminals that customers can use to connect to Project Kuiper. These terminals appear to vary in size and speed. The standard terminal has 400 Mbps capacity. The larger terminal will reach 1 Gbps while the smaller terminal will serve budget residential or enterprise customers with lower internet speed needs.
On the other hand, Inmarsat offers a variety of terminals and antennas suitable for different needs, including fixed and portable terminals such as the BGAN MCD-4800, as well as maritime antennas. The company offers custom solutions for corporate and government clients, such as specialized antennas or equipment designed to meet specific requirements.
As far as cost goes, Kuiper has not yet disclosed its pricing plans while Inmarsat’s pricing varies with the data usage and speeds for their myriad of services.
Kuiper vs. Inmarsat: 5 Must-Know Facts
- Amazon’s Kuiper’s name comes from the Dutch-American astronomer, Gerard Kuiper, who pioneered the study of the Solar System and the formation of planetary systems. Kuiper is famous for his work on the Kuiper Belt.
- Kuiper plans to launch over 3,200 satellites, while Inmarsat currently has 13 satellites in orbit.
- Inmarsat was the first company to launch a commercial GEO satellite in 1982.
- Similar to Starlink, Kuiper’s satellite network will provide coverage to areas that currently lack access to high-speed internet.
- Inmarsat’s services include voice and data communications, cybersecurity tracking, and safety services for maritime and aviation industries.
Kuiper vs. Inmarsat: Which One is Better?
Project Kuiper is set to revolutionize the satellite communication industry with their innovative services and, more so, satellite internet. Since the project isn’t operational yet, we can’t really say whether it’s better than Inmarsat or not.
However, looking at the company’s background, Kuiper’s parent company, Amazon, is known for its exceptional services, so we can expect the same from Kuiper. Going off of their goals too, Project Kuiper is expected to be a strong contender in the satellite internet market. We can’t wait to see what they actually bring to the table.
It’s therefore worth keeping an eye on both services to see which one will best meet your needs once Kuiper is up and running. However, for now, if you require satellite internet and are a large business or corporate entity, Inmarsat may be the better choice.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©greenbutterfly/Shutterstock.com.