Choose the branch location that you would like to communicate with
Contact Us

LEO high-speed satellite internet: Starlink vs Kuiper




Starlink operated by SpaceX is a satellite internet constellation that was announced in January 2015. Though it was not named at the time, it aimed to provide satellite high-speed broadband internet to worldwide locations where access is unreliable or unavailable. Starlink project surpassed 1,000 satellites delivered into Low Earth Orbit and aims to increase that number to 11,000 or more in the years to come. The service is currently limited to the northwest US, adjacent parts of Canada, and parts of the UK. 

Racing into the competition, Amazon gained the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval in 2019 for Project Kuiper, an initiative to launch a planned constellation of 3,236 Low Earth Orbit internet satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world. 

World’s richest men, SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos committing each to $10 billion to their consecutive satellite internet projects, are currently competing to extend high-speed internet service around the world but find themselves battling over the orbital parameters for their rival satellite constellations. 

SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper enter orbital battle 

The argument started when SpaceX asked the FCC permission to lower its satellite orbits to facilitate the safe deorbiting of satellites. Amazon objected considering that the orbital change would hurdle the Kuiper project plans as SpaceX satellites, if lowered to altitudes as low as 560 or 570 km, could end up in the path of Kuiper satellites licensed at nearby altitudes. 

In an interview with Alhurra TV, ITWORKSME CTO Salloum El Dahdaah explains that while the internet via satellite is not a new sell-out as it was used for long times in the military field, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is a new debatable issue. Starlink satellites for example are over 60 times closer to Earth than traditional satellites resulting in lower latency and higher internet speed, this is why SpaceX is seeking the FCC approval to lower its satellites altitudes even if that would incur further costs of launching more satellites. 

Will the Space remain safe? 

From its end, SpaceX acclaims lower altitudes as a key element to prevent space debris and make the space environment safer by better managing traffic and potential collisions in space. Amazon argues on the other hand, that those changes not only create a more dangerous environment for collisions in space, but they also increase radio interference for customers and could actually put Starlink satellites at risk of colliding with Kuiper satellites.

In response to Amazon’s protest, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “It does not serve the public to hamstring Starlink today for an Amazon satellite system that is at best several years away from operation”. 

Further to this point, Salloum El Dahdaah stated that Starlink expected to hit worldwide availability by 2022, is already in the phase of execution. It is currently operating on a beta-trial basis and it has already deployed hundreds of satellites in Starlink Constellations while Amazon’s Project Kuiper is still a long way from the launchpad. 

How does LEO affect scientific observations? 

Amazon is not the only competitor to SpaceX. OneWeb, Telesat, and Keplar Communications have plans to send their satellites into space, Salloum added. However, real competition does not apply at this point since all these projects are still either under design or under study, he noted. Starlink is the furthest along with a “Better than Nothing” public beta trial underway. Starlink’s beta users are said to be paying $99 a month, plus a one-time equipment fee of $499 for a terminal, tripod, and router.

Persuaded by the established technical capacity of Amazon to compete in the internet Satellite race, especially that it could benefit from leveraging connections with Amazon Web Services, ITWORKSME CTO Salloum EL Dahdaah said that Project Kuiper’s system necessitates a single phased array antenna for transmitting and receiving data from its satellite constellation. Such arrangement would require even lower orbit altitudes and considerably higher number of satellites launched into space. As Project Kuiper is until this moment a design project without any successful trials, questions are raised on whether it will succeed given that no tangible evidence has been put forward yet.  

It is worth noting that the rapid influx of satellites into low-Earth orbit and the rush of more entrants joining the action have alerted astronomers and scientists, as concerns were raised over the lack of constellations’ regulation and how it would affect astronomical launches for scientific observations. Mega constellations of satellites being growingly launched into orbit around Earth may damage the data astronomers collect and risk shifting humanity’s view of the night skies, recent studies show.

Despite scientific and safety concerns being carefully perused by reliable big Tech companies to avert threats caused by LEO satellites launching, the principal objective of delivering high-speed internet, mainly to unserved communities, remains a significant technology advance aiming to enhance the performance of businesses and the daily life of individuals around the world.


Drag & drop your CV here or browse
10 MB max file size.
Thank you for your interest in joining ITWORKS ME! If we found you a great match, our team will contact you right away!!
Unable to send your cv, please try later