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Starlink vs Amazon’s Project Kuiper: 5 Must-Know Facts

  1. Jeff Bezos plans to initially invest $10 billion in Amazon’s Project Kuiper whenever it launches.
  2. Elon Musk plans to invest $20 to $30 billion in Starlink to offer full global coverage.
  3. Starlink draws its name from the concept of a constellation of internet satellites orbiting Earth. 
  4. Amazon’s Project Kuiper is named after the Kuiper, which is a circular ring of celestial planetoids, asteroids, and comets extending out from the orbit of Neptune.
  5. Internet satellites orbit about 300 to 350 miles above Earth.

Do you know what people take for granted now more than anything? The internet. The average internet speed is 25 Mbps in large cities. However, depending on your internet service, it is probably much faster than that.

Still, many people in the world are stuck using crippling slow internet or have no access to the internet at all. It’s an emerging market. So, which provider is better, Starlink vs Amazon’s Project Kuiper?

If you are interested in these new satellite internet companies, you should know that they are optimal for people in rural areas and the developing world. Especially those who struggle with sub-average or non-existent access to the internet. The fastest internet speeds in some rural areas of America are as slow as 4Mbps. 

Meanwhile, over 37% of people globally have never used the internet. More specifically, one out of every three people in the world has never used the internet. 

So, if you find yourself hearing a lot about the rise of satellite internet services, that is the market they are catering to now. So, what do you need to know in the battle between Starlink vs Amazon’s Project Kuiper?

StarlinkAmazon’s Project Kuiper
Founded20152019
FoundersElon Musk, Kimbal Musk, Gwynne ShotwellJeff Bezos
HeadquartersRedmond, WashingtonRedmond, Washington
ServiceSatellite internetSatellite internet
Cost$110 monthly including a one-time hardware fee of $599Not in service yet
Business service fees$500 monthly and a one-time $2,500 hardware feeNot in service yet
Number of satellites in orbit3,000+The first satellites planned for launch in 2026
Internet speed50 to 150 MbpsNot in service yet
Global subscribers400,000None
Websitehttps://www.starlink.com/https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/tag/project-kuiper

Starlink vs Amazon’s Project Kuiper: What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper is that one service, Starlink, is already operational and in use, while the other, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, is a planned service that does not exist yet.

Service

Starlink vs Amazon's Project Kuiper
Starlink is a project of SpaceX.

©Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

Starlink is a satellite internet service that offers consumers affordable access to internet services. The company has been launching low-Earth-orbit satellites for years now. Starlink customers receive a small satellite dish that self-orients itself to align with Starlink’s low-Earth-orbit satellite.

Unlike a traditional satellite dish, which only receives signals beaming from a high-Earth-orbit satellite, Starlink dishes and their accompanying satellites both transmit and receive signals from each other.

Starlink

Starlink’s satellite internet service is fast, reliable, and accessible from almost anywhere. That’s because its satellite constellation is in low Earth orbit and the accompanying Earth-bound Starlink dishes constantly beam data back and forth.  

After setting up the extremely user-friendly Starlink satellite dish, it will automatically align itself and point to its accompanying low-earth-orbit satellites in the sky.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper

Amazon’s Project Kuiper has yet to publicly reveal how its satellite internet service will operate. Starlink’s satellite internet service is currently available. Amazon’s Project Kuiper projected services won’t be available until sometime between 2026 and 2029. The company has not officially stated when its services will be available.

Latency

Latency is the amount of time it takes for a signal command sent from your computer or device to travel to a network server and then relay the requested command back to you. This process is also known as electronic pinging.

Electronic signal latency is measured in milliseconds. The lower the latency, the better your service. In other words, there won’t be a long lag or pause between your requested internet command and the result. 

Starlink claims that its latency is low, and ranges between 20, 30, and 40 milliseconds. Amazon’s Project Kuiper is not yet operational.

Market

Starlink caters to consumers who live in remote and rural areas where internet service is woefully slow, inadequate, or non-existent. Starlink is also expanding to the developing world which will become an emerging internet market in the coming years and decades. 

After all, it will be easier to offer satellite internet to these areas than building millions of miles of new fiber optic cable infrastructures in new continents.

As previously mentioned, over 37% of people in the world have never used the internet. And over 96% of the people who have never used the internet live in impoverished and developing countries. That is an emerging market and demographic and market that Starlink can cater to in the future.

Starlink

Satellite internet technology can also be used by governments and military agencies for their own purposes. In October 2022, Elon Musk announced that Starlink would no longer be made available for free to the Ukraine government, which has depended on the service in its war with Russia. Musk reversed his statement, but the incident illustrated that Starlink already has military applications.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper

Amazon’s Project Kuiper’s future market will ultimately be to portray itself as a preferable competitor and alternative to Starlink to consumers. How Amazon’s Project Kuiper will do this is still unknown, as the company is not yet offering any satellite internet services.

Since Amazon’s Project Kuiper is not operational yet, we could theorize that the future service could be marketed to the space tourists of the future, which is another business ambition of Jeff Bezos. In July 2021, Jeff Bezos made headlines by blasting into the low-Earth-orbit via his own commercial rocket company, Blue Origin.

Blue Origin launches cargo into space but is also a prototype space tourism company as well. Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which is a separate entity from Blue Origin, will have its internet satellites launched by Blue Origin. 

Amazon’s Project Kuiper’s internet satellite constellation may one day offer internet services to the space tourists patronizing Blue Origin, but that is speculation at this point.

Constellation Ambitions

starlink vs amazon's project kuiper
Amazon’s Project Kuiper is focused on creating satellites to survive extreme conditions in space.

©nmedia/Shutterstock.com

A constellation is a star chart of the position of the stars in the visible sky. Depending on where you are situated on Earth, like in the northern or southern hemisphere, the constellations in the sky differ.

The idea of a constellation is being appropriated by companies like Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper to refer to the number of low-Earth-orbit satellites in the sky that will be needed to optimize their satellite internet operations.

In other words, the more low-Earth-orbit internet satellites in the sky, then the more uninterrupted internet service reliability can be offered to subscribers. It’s easier to compare constellations of low-Earth-orbit internet satellites in the sky to fiber optic cables in the ground; the more of them that you have in a network, then the more reliable and faster the service.

Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper will be launching low-Earth-orbit satellites in ever-expanding concentric orbits. Imagine differing orbits of tens of thousands of small internet satellites with each orbit like the layers in an onion.

Starlink

Starlink has currently launched about 3,000 low-Earth-orbit satellites. Additionally, Starlink was given permission by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to launch 12,000 internet satellite constellations in the coming years. Starlink plans to launch over 42,000 internet satellite constellations in the coming years to offer internet coverage to the entire world.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper

Amazon’s Project Kuiper entered into a $10 billion deal with Boeing-Lockheed Martin to create a new satellite launching venture called United Launch Alliance in 2021. Amazon’s Project Kuiper has been given permission to launch 3,200 low-Earth-satellite constellations, but half of them must be launched by 2026. The company’s full satellite constellation must be launched by 2029.

As of now, Amazon’s Project Kuiper has zero satellites in orbit.

Availability

Starlink is slowly expanding its availability to consumers. As previously mentioned, Starlink is currently available to over 400,000 subscribers globally. Starlink’s low-Earth-Orbit satellite internet services are available in 40 countries and counting. Currently, the best and most consistent is available in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Starlink claims that it will begin testing its service in Africa, starting in Mozambique and Nigeria, by the end of 2022. The U.S National Science Foundation contracted Starlink to begin testing its services in Antarctica in September 2022.

Starlink is also testing its dishes on Hawaiian Airlines, as well on Silversea, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity Cruises. People with RVs and boats can also sign up for Starlink’s services. Amazon’s Project Kuiper is not yet available for use.

Starlink vs Amazon’s Project Kuiper: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Since only Starlink is currently available, we can’t quantify if its service is better than Amazon’s project Kuiper, which may not be available until 2029 at the earliest.

What we can say is that Starlink has been launching satellites since 2019 and currently offers its satellite internet service. Consumers may potentially begin taking it for granted until Amazon’s Project Kuiper comes online.

Starlink is still very new. But it is online and in high demand. It is being used in military operations in Ukraine. Starlink will be ahead of the curve in offering satellite internet services by the time Amazon’s Project Kuiper comes online. And even then, Amazon’s Project Kuiper will inevitably start with beta testing and developing its business model years from now in the same way Starlink is doing right now.

So, you should use Starlink if you are in the market now. You will have to wait until Amazon’s Project Kuiper comes online, justifies its business existence, and explains how it differentiates itself from Starlink to decide whether it is better or not.

Up Next…

Starlink vs Amazon’s Project Kuiper: How Do They Compare? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why are satellite internet services being offered now when fiber optic internet exists?

Because it would be easier and quicker to launch internet satellite constellations into low-Earth-orbit than construct new undersea internet cable infrastructures. And satellite internet users are a small but growing demographic.

Most of the internet services offered today are enabled by millions of miles of undersea cables. From 1866 to the present day, over 745,000 miles of communication cables have been laid on the sea and ocean floors all over the world.

The first undersea communications cables were rubber-insulated copper wires. But in recent decades they were made of fiber optic cables.

Over 37% of the world has never used the internet. That’s why it’s relatively easier and faster for communications companies to launch internet satellite constellations than lay millions of miles of new undersea cables.

Is satellite internet faster than fiber optic cable?

No. Fiber optic cables offer faster internet speeds, more reliable bandwidth, and lower latency than satellite internet services.

If satellite internet is slower than traditional internet, then why should anyone use it?

Satellite internet technology is currently optimal for people in remote and rural areas where stable or fast internet services are not a given. And it will serve the growing market of new internet users in developing countries.

What’s more, it’s a new technology that should get better and faster in the future. Traditional internet went through the same growing pains. When traditional fiber optic cable internet was introduced to the public in the early 1990s, it was notoriously slow due to dial-up modem connections.

I live in a city. Why can’t I use Starlink?

You can use Starlink in cities, but it may be self-defeating. The problem is that large, population-dense cities have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to internet providers, speed, and infrastructure.

And the fiber optic internet coverage available in cities are faster than those currently offered by Starlink. In a few years or a decade or two, the situation may change, but those in cities are better off using fiber optic internet for the moment.

What are the drawbacks of using low-Earth orbit satellite internet services?

It’s a new technology that is in its birthing pains period. In February 2022, dozens of Starlink satellites were knocked out of orbit and burned up in Earth’s atmosphere after a geomagnetic storm.

Critics worry that Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper will significantly contribute to the worsening space junk problem.

If Starlink ever launches 42,000 satellites, and if Amazon’s Project Kuiper ever matches it, there will be over 80,000 commercial satellites in low-Earth-orbit. There will inevitably be collisions and satellites falling out of orbit.

Tens of thousands of internet satellites orbiting 300 miles above the Earth will also create globally consequential light pollution. Traditionally, light pollution is caused in large cities with an abundance of artificial illumination, like streetlights that block out the natural brilliance of the night sky.

Tens of thousands of internet satellites made of metal and reflective materials will reflect sunlight back on the Earth and make it harder to see through land-based telescopes.

Additionally, even if you live in a remote or rural area, it may take time to get the service. You may even be waitlisted before you get service. The technology and dish-based infrastructure are being simultaneously created and perfected as it launches and expands.

Finally, subscribers must install the Starlink dish themselves. While the Starlink dish self-installation process is user-friendly, it may seem complicated to those who have never done it before. In such situations, you may have to hire a contractor to install it for you.

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