The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business
Space mission Amazon reveals bold projects
Amazon stirs up fear in almost every market into which it wades – and Jeff Bezos’s retail giant now has telecoms bosses worried, writes Matthew Field.
The Seattlebased online empire has been expanding into territory telecoms operators once considered their stronghold.
Last February, it bought US start-up Eero, pushing into technology known as “mesh” routers that can boost traditional modems.
Telecoms executives express private fears Eero is just one part of a technology jigsaw that will one day make their infrastructure irrelevant.
Amazon’s experts are also working on Project Sidewalk, a plan to use connected devices like Ring doorbells and smart lights as local internet hotspots to extend coverage.
To tie all of this together, Amazon’s biggest play is Project Kuiper, a planned constellation of more than 3,000 broadband satellites that have the potential to cut traditional telecoms operators out of the loop entirely.
Project Kuiper is by no means the first space venture for Bezos, a wellknown Star Trek fan. He also owns Blue Origin, a space rocket company with ambitions for a lunar mission.
Amazon’s satellite plans are part of a new space race to put affordable, fast broadband in to orbit. The collapsed UK challenger Oneweb and Spacex’s Starlink share similar ambitions
Amazon is among the bidders for Oneweb’s assets, a move that could accelerate its progress. For Amazon, it is also an opportunity to sell to regions of the world traditional telecoms networks do not reach. “By launching their own constellation to provide affordable internet they increase the market of their existing services,” says Shagun Sachdeva, of Northern Sky Research.
Project Kuiper could be worth up to $100bn (£81bn) for Amazon, according to a Morgan Stanley report.
Amazon is also selling to telecoms operators themselves, even as it plots their downfall. Its Amazon Web Services infrastructure is emerging as a dominant force in 5G “edge” computing, data crunching done at the periphery of a mobile network that proponents claim will be crucial for fast artificial intelligence applications, including driverless cars.
Vodafone, Verizon and ST Telekom will be using Amazon’s technology.