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.

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