How Amazon And SpaceX Stack Up in 2022
Amazon and SpaceX have more in common than just the two high-profile names associated with each company and their very public rivalry. These two companies are also working to get more satellites into space to provide internet service on a larger scale in a way that’s more reliable and affordable. If you’re on the hunt for accessible and dependable internet service where you live, you may have an interest in exploring the possibilities with what’s considered low-Earth orbiting satellite internet. If this is the case – or if you’re simply just curious – read on for our rundown of how Amazon and SpaceX stack up in 2022.
SpaceX (Starlink) Has the Early Advantage
If you just go by what’s already in place and available, SpaceX via Musk’s Starlink service has a clear leg up over Amazon’s satellite internet service efforts – referred to as Project Kuiper. So, let’s begin this comparison by looking at where both companies stand right now and what they have planned for the near future.
Amazon already has deals in place with several private space vehicle launch companies, including Blue Origin and Arianespace, to get its satellite up into low-Earth orbit (LEO). Via its Project Kuiper, Amazon has plans to make high-speed, low-latency – referring to signal travel time – satellite internet service available to a wide range of potential users, including individual households, businesses of varying sizes, hospitals and government agencies, and schools. Altogether, Amazon has plans to launch just over 3,200 LEO satellites.
SpaceX is targeting the same general customers as Amazon. As far as LEO satellites go, the company is already authorized to launch more than 4,000 satellites just above the planet. According to an Elon Musk tweet on the topic, Starlink currently has 1,469 active satellites. The company has also filed for approval to send 30,000 additional satellites up into the same general orbit range above our blue marble.
Amazon’s satellite internet service isn’t yet available. The company plans to get its service ready for use in stages over the next five years, so we’ll just have to wait and see how that goes. As for Starlink, it’s already up and running. However, you may have to wait for a while once you sign up if the service is available in your area. The Starlink website currently notes orders may not be filled until 2023 – or even later.
A recent report by Doxo found households in the U.S. spent, on average, about $116 on cable internet in 2021. For satellite internet, the average was nearly $90 per month for the same time period. Amazon has yet to announce a price for its satellite internet service, other than to say it will be “affordable.” Starlink’s rate is currently $110 per month – plus additional initial costs that include:
• $99 deposit
• $599 hardware fee (for the receiver dish)
• Taxes + shipping/handling fees
Starlink customers have speeds that average between 100 and 200 Mbps (megabits per second), which isn’t too shabby. However, according to Ookla, Starlink’s actual average with speed was 87.25 Mbps during the last few quarters of 2021. Amazon, on the other hands, is stating the availability of speeds up to 400 Mbps. But if we add Starlink Premium to the mix, which comes with a $500 per month price tag, speeds average between 150 and 500 Mbps.
What about the Satellite Clutter?
Air pollution isn’t just relegated to what’s happening below the Earth’s atmosphere. Satellites also contribute to a lot of air – or “space” – pollution. Plus, satellites do have a fairly significant carbon footprint. Scientists have also expressed concerns about possibly having trouble getting a good view of what’s going on far away from our planet with Earth-based telescopes because of clutter from low-Earth orbiting satellites. Plus, there’s already a lot of orbital debris – about 6,000 tons of it – in the same vicinity as where the new satellites are going.
Overall, satellite internet delivered from a lower orbit does have a lot of potential. At the very least, it’s a way of increasing accessibility to internet service in under-served and rural communities.