Rural areas are scenic and beautiful, but they’re also something of a wilderness. This simple fact led to the creation of satellite Internet many years ago. If regular cables and dial-up connections couldn’t reach these wildernesses, maybe a satellite could deliver the goods and bring rural America into the comforting universe of the web. By 2019, about 8 million Americans were able to get online thanks to satellite Internet. The U.S. Census Bureau reported this number in 2019, so it’s likely higher today.
8 million might sound like a lot, but there are over 60 million Americans who inhabit a rural landscape. And the number of satellite Internet users didn’t explode the way that many early providers believed it would. Why? Well, rural areas also tend to have lower costs of living, and by extension, also lower median incomes. Satellite providers failed to expand into more rural areas for a very good reason; the cost is prohibitive.
Amazon and SpaceX to the Rescue
Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are both big fans of space, as evidenced by the fact that one of the dreams of living there one day (Musk) and one has already been there a couple of times (Bezos). It’s only natural that their mind would turn to create a more affordable satellite Internet service. How are they both doing in this rush to make satellite Internet mainstream?
Elon Musk enjoys adding things to space. Between 2019 and today, he’s sent 1,000 Starlink satellites into the vast landscape of space, all in preparation for bringing broadband Internet to the masses.
The actual satellites that Amazon plans to launch into space are under the umbrella name of Project Kuiper. That’s coming up here at the end of 2022, so you can see Amazon is moving in quickly here. The project has been in the works for a long time, and Starlink is a willing foe and competitor.
The Mission Ahead
There are 4 billion people in the world who have no access to the Internet at all. For anyone who’s been on here for the last decade or more, that’s a shocking fact and a sad one. There are also other locations around the world where Internet connectivity is a figment of the imagination, such as big ships traversing the world with their passengers.
Amazon is a little late to the game here, but they’re rapidly developing plans to enter this race on a massive stage. Starlink has a bit of a head start with about 90,000 Internet users enjoying Starlink Internet. The uphill battle that both giants face is that they are not the first firms to offer satellite Internet or the first ones to quickly discover the obstacles to reliable satellite internet.
The most common satellite Internet provider in the world is HughesNet.To compete with this already up-and-live provider, both Starlink and Amazon’s services will have to get the ball rolling a little quicker. The mission is clear for both companies. Starlink’s goal is 10,000 satellites in space, and Amazon wants to throw 3,236 of their own satellites in low-orbit. For now, the total is 1,700 satellites for Starlink and a whopping 0 for Amazon.
As the sprint to the finish line continues, only the goal is clear. The methods for getting there will likely transform over the years as both competitors continue onward to a final product. For now, only 90,000 lone Starlink customers showcase what could be for the future. Amazon has a long road to go to even catch up to that first wonderful customer who discovers that “light” of the Internet. For 4 billion people, the Internet is still a dark and forbidding place. With two giants like SpaceX and Amazon competing, one can only assume that the years ahead in this marathon will be interesting, if not lucrative, and world-changing.