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No matter where you live, post-pandemic times have changed how we do business, go to school, and even work. We live in a new digital era. Everyone is online – because they have to be. But a big problem lies with this fact – not everyone has internet or a fast, reliable internet connection.
Project Kuiper is a means to provide fixed wireless internet to areas with low broadband services. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said it himself: “There are billions of people without reliable broadband access, and no single company will close the digital divide on its own.”
But two tech giants teaming together could close that gap.
What is Project Kuiper?
Project Kuiper, or Kuiper Systems, comprises 3,236 LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellites. These satellites aim to bring high-speed broadband internet to underserved areas or areas with no internet at all. These areas include individual households, schools, farms, hospitals, businesses, and any organization that needs high-speed broadband internet.
Verizon CEO Hans Vestburg stated, “…We know the future will be built on our leading 5G network, designed for mobility, fixed wireless access, and real-time cloud computing. More importantly, we believe that the power of this technology must be accessible for all.”
The project was launched in 2019 and officially approved in 2020 for $10 billion. No specific timeline exists yet, but the two companies expect to complete the project by July 2029. If that seems like a long time, don’t worry. Expect a few satellites released by 2026.
Battle of the Tech Giants
Amazon and Verizon
Amazon and Verizon agreed to this major project for two reasons. One driver is to bring reliable broadband internet to rural communities. However, their primary reason is that the two companies risk losing customers to Elon Musk’s Starlink. This includes major corporate clients like Google.
Amazon and Verizon cannot compete with Starlink on their own, but they can stall.
Amazon chose Verizon because the wireless network company is a leader in the industry. Many people select Verizon because of its coverage. Project Kuiper will expand their 4G/LTE and 5G data networks. Doing so will increase Verizon’s customer base and Amazon’s.
Starlink, a division of SpaceX, designs, manufactures, and launches spacecraft in the hopes to one day provide high-speed broadband internet worldwide with LEO satellites. Starlink has already launched 1,740 satellites, with 100,000 beta testers offering improvements.
However, Starlink internet isn’t cheap. It’s $99 per month and is only available in select regions of the United States right now. Users can expect download speeds between 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps. In most locations, latency is around 20ms.
Verizon’s Fixed Wireless
Fixed wireless covers 36% of the US according to the FCC and is one of the best options for rural internet. So how does it work exactly? Radio signals deliver a fixed wireless internet connection to a nearby transmission tower. This delivers internet within a specific range wirelessly.
Verizon launched its fixed wireless service in 2018 using 5G. The launch targeted only four markets and offered high speeds covering short distances. Verizon then expanded its reach to 50 newer markets and in 2020 started offering the LTE version. The LTE version covers more distance but slightly slower speeds.
Now, the fixed wireless LTE service is available in all 50 states and in over 200 markets.
It’s not a surprise that Verizon wants to become a national fixed broadband provider. Verizon sees a need for thousands of communities in the US alone, and people love it. Their fixed wireless LTE service is now in over 11 million households, and we can expect it to grow as the years pass.
So what is there to look forward to with fixed wireless internet?
Benefits of Fixed Wireless Internet
Fixed wireless internet is ideal for many rural areas. Let’s see what benefits come with this service.
Fixed wireless internet isn’t quite as fast as fiber internet, but it’s still pretty quick. Households with fixed wireless can expect download speeds between 40 Mbps to 1000 Mbps. You can enjoy high connection speeds without struggling with a physical connection.
A data cap is the maximum amount of data a person can use monthly. Everything we do online uses data. Many internet service providers (ISPs) put a cap on how many gigabytes you can use to help manage their network. But some ISPs offer unlimited data, particularly for areas where an internet connection is weak. Fixed wireless can provide unlimited data, or more data, to places where it’s needed.
Low Installation Costs
Since fixed wireless is cable-free, installation is easy. A transmitter/receiver is fitted to your building or house and is positioned to receive the strongest signal. That’s it. There are no cables to install, making costs cheaper than other connection types.
Quick Installation Time
Installation is fast without troublesome cables to handle. A technician needs to adjust the transmitter/receiver. Once that is done, the job is complete. Cabling can take several minutes to hours and requires far more resources to get the job done.
Wires and cables are prone to damage for several reasons. If a cable breaks, the connection is lost until that cable is replaced. Wireless connection means an unwavering connection. For rural areas, fixing a damaged cable or dish is costly since it’s more prone to damage from weather. An utterly wireless internet connection means fewer interruptions and breaks in connectivity.
Latency is the number of data packets transferred from one destination to another. Simply put, it’s a measure of delay. When a page takes forever to load, that’s a latency issue. Wired networks such as DSL and cable tend to have higher latency issues than fixed wireless.
Fixed Wireless vs. Satellite
Satellite internet is also a popular option for rural communities that don’t have a fixed wireless connection. Both internet services transmit a signal from a distribution point to an access point. The distribution point is where the signal is coming from. The difference between these two internet services lies in the composition and distance from the distribution point.
Satellite’s distribution point is a satellite in Earth’s orbit. Traditional satellites are about 22,000 miles away. On the other hand, fixed wireless distribution points are usually within a few miles of a receiving household much closer.
As you can imagine, distance affects connectivity and latency.
We mentioned before that latency is a measure of delay. It’s how long it takes for data to travel from one point to another. If your connection is slow, laggy, moving at a snail’s pace, etc., odds are you have a latency issue. A satellite internet connection has a long way to travel – 22,000 miles! Combine this with other obstacles like weather, and high latency is often a matter of when, not if.
How does this affect Project Kuiper?
The satellites used for Project Kuiper are LEO or low-Earth orbiting satellites. They’re not 22,000 miles away. They could be a few thousand miles away. However, this signal still has to travel further than a fixed wireless internet connection.
Fixed wireless connection has to travel a meager 10 miles to reach an access point. Even in terrible weather, 10 miles is nothing compared to the hundreds of miles for satellites.
Satellite is experiencing some exciting changes through Project Kuiper. It’s improving. It may not be ready by next year, but we can look forward to progress.
The Future of Rural Internet
If you think space travel is the future, wait until you see how the internet and space travel combine. Providing internet in rural areas may seem like a boring subject to some. But giving internet connection to these communities provides opportunities the world has yet to see.
Rural communities are where much of our food is grown. Imagine how bringing the internet to these areas would affect agriculture. Smart farms will usher in energy efficiency and manufacturing. Transportation will change. No longer will there be food deserts. Not to mention the increase in job opportunities.
The internet changed our world and isn’t stopping any time soon. So brush up on your internet vocabulary. It really is rocket science now!
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