Amazon wins FCC chair’s support for Kuiper satellite plan

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Friday announced his support for Amazon’s Kuiper constellation, which calls for launching more than 3,000 satellites to provide broadband in the U.S. and across the globe.

Amazon detailed plans for the project last year, when it filed its plans for the FCC’s approval. In a tweet, Pai said he shared with his colleagues a proposal to approve, with conditions, the Kuiper application to deploy and operate a non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGS)) fixed satellite service (FSS).

The chairman didn’t elaborate on what the conditions would be. Bloomberg noted that his request is likely to result in approval in closed-door voting at the agency, where Pai leads the Republican majority.

The Kuiper System is designed to use 3,236 satellites operating in 98 orbital planes, at altitudes between 366 and 391 miles. Amazon has said the satellite system would help close the digital divide, providing fixed connectivity to homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, government agencies and first responders, among others.

Amazon told the commission last year that it has the expertise, infrastructure and financial wherewithal to make the Kuiper System a success. “We recognize that the effective implementation of global broadband NGSO FSS services requires more than the design, construction, and deployment of a technologically advanced satellite system, low-cost customer terminals, and gateways,” the company said. “It also requires worldwide terrestrial network infrastructure and customer operations capabilities.”

Amazon also pointed to its global terrestrial networking and compute expertise, including intercontinental fiber links, data centers, compute/edge compute capabilities and the tools and know-how to securely and efficiently transport data.

In addition, according to Amazon, the Kuiper system will enable mobile network operators to expand wireless services to unserved and underserved mobile customers and provide high-throughput mobile broadband connectivity services for aircraft, maritime vessels, and land vehicles.

RELATED: Amazon seeks permission to launch 3.2K broadband satellites as Kuiper initiative moves ahead

Amazon’s system joins a number of other satellite systems in development. SpaceX and OneWeb are two other prominent players in the space. SpaceX, which received FCC approval in 2018 to launch nearly 12,000 broadband satellites, is currently embroiled in a fight over the 12 GHz band, which Dish Network and others want to use for 5G.

RELATED: Dish presses FCC to reject SpaceX plan for 12 GHz band

Last week, SpaceX reiterated (PDF) its opposition to a 2016 petition for rulemaking regarding the 12 GHz Band, emphasizing the importance of the band to SpaceX’s delivery of next-generation advanced broadband service to consumers throughout the United States, including those in rural, unserved, and underserved areas.