Amazon announced this week that it has reached another milestone in working toward providing a fast, affordable broadband internet service to rival SpaceX’s Starlink.
The newest update from the company is that Project Kuiper has developed a small, low-cost customer terminal that will allow customers to connect to Amazon’s satellites. This key piece of the system comes after Project Kuiper received FCC approval for the network of over 3,200 satellites in July, followed by testing this fall.
“The Ka-band phased array antenna is based on a new architecture capable of delivering high-speed, low-latency broadband in a form factor that is smaller and lighter than legacy antenna designs,” Amazon wrote in a blog post. In prototype testing, Amazon says that it has reached speeds of 400 Mbps and that speeds will continue to improve as the company tests and tweaks the equipment.
Here’s how Amazon describes the process of creating the small, lightweight design.
Instead of placing antenna arrays adjacent to one another, we used tiny antenna element structures to overlay one over the other. This has never been accomplished in the Ka-band. The breakthrough allows us to reduce the size and weight of the entire terminal, while operating in a frequency that delivers higher bandwidth and better performance than other bands. Our design uses a combination of digital and analog components to electronically steer Ka-band beams toward satellites passing overhead.
The result is a single aperture phased array antenna that measures 12 inches in diameter, making it three times smaller and proportionately lighter than legacy antenna designs. This order of magnitude reduction in size will reduce production costs by an equal measure, allowing Amazon to offer customers a terminal that is more affordable and easier to install.
“If you want to make a difference for unserved and underserved communities, you need to deliver service at a price that makes sense for customers,” said Rajeev Badyal, VP of Technology for Project Kuiper at Amazon. “This simple fact inspired one of our key tenets for Kuiper: to invent a light, compact phased array antenna that would allow us to produce an affordable customer terminal. It’s incredible to see such a small form factor delivering this type of speed and performance.”
Amazon has not yet shared details of when its broadband service will be available or how much the service will cost.