Amazon ramps Project Kuiper testing ahead of initial launch

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted Amazon permission to test a prototype earth station for its forthcoming Project Kuiper broadband service, ahead of the scheduled launch of its first satellites later this year.

In a filing, Amazon said it plans to conduct the aforementioned trial in Texas from May to November, using a drone flying at a maximum altitude of 400 feet to transmit signals to the experimental earth station. It added it plans to use spectrum from 19.19-19.29 GHz for the test, with the earth station operating in receive-only mode.

“Evaluation of the prototype earth station is part of Amazon’s program to develop high-speed, innovative satellite-delivered services to underserved customers worldwide,” it wrote. “Accordingly, grant of the requested experimental authority would serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity.”

The FCC’s approval of the request came after Amazon in April announced it had booked 83 launches with various aerospace companies to send the majority of its 3,236-satellite Project Kuiper constellation into orbit. The company previously said in November it will team with ABL Space Systems to launch two prototype satellites by Q4 2022.

Following the April announcement, the FCC also approved a request Amazon submitted in February seeking to extend an experimental license it had received to conduct indoor lab testing of prototype antennas. In addition to its own gear, it said testing would utilize antennae from Eravant, a microwave signal generator from Keysight and a vector signal transceiver from National Instruments.

Last year, Amazon received permission to conduct over-the-air outdoor tests of a prototype earth station antenna and a prototype spacecraft antenna. In February 2022, it was granted a two-year extension of that experimental license.


Amazon is a bit of a late comer aiming to jump into an increasingly crowded low-earth orbit satellite market which already includes SpaceX’s Starlink venture, OneWeb and Lightspeed.

Starlink launched its first test satellites in 2018 and began commercial launches in the first half of 2019. Earlier this week, it sent 53 more birds into orbit to bring its total to more than 2,400 to date. It currently offers service for $110 per month promising speeds of between 100-200 Mbps and a $500 per month premium tier with speeds of 150-500 Mbps.

OneWeb, meanwhile, had launched 428 satellites as of March, a figure accounting for two-thirds of its proposed constellation. Unlike Starlink, however, OneWeb plans to focus more on serving business customers.

Both Starlink and Amazon could face increasing competition from fiber and other fixed broadband providers in the U.S. in the coming years thanks in part to an influx of government funding designed to help connect currently unserved locations. Last week, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) unveiled the funding rules for its $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. These specify that areas served solely by satellite or fixed wireless systems using unlicensed spectrum will be counted as unserved and thus will be eligible to receive funding.