Amazon forges satellite deal with Vodafone and Vodacom

Vodafone and its African subsidiary, Vodacom, have made a deal to use Amazon’s yet-to-be-deployed Project Kuiper satellite broadband network to extend the reach of their 4G/5G cellular networks.

The deal, which was announced this week by Amazon as well as British-based Vodafone, would give Project Kuiper business connections in Europe and Africa that are comparable to Amazon’s previously announced partnership with Verizon for extending telecom services in the U.S.

Vodafone and its subsidiaries provide mobile and fixed telecom service to more than 300 million customers in 17 countries, and partner with mobile networks in 46 other countries. “This is our second telco partnership, and we look forward to working with other telcos,” an Amazon spokesperson told me in an email.

Like SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network, Project Kuiper aims to provide broadband internet service to millions of people around the world who are underserved. SpaceX is far ahead of Amazon: While SpaceX has deployed thousands of Starlink satellites and has more than 1.5 million subscribers, Amazon hasn’t yet deployed a single Kuiper satellite.

Kuiper’s first prototypes are due for launch as early as this month, kicking off what’s expected to be an ambitious campaign to deploy half of the network’s planned 3,236 satellites by mid-2026. The satellite operations for Kuiper and Starlink are both based in Redmond, Wash.

Project Kuiper’s plan calls for selling satellite terminals to end users, as well as working with partners to connect geographically dispersed cellular antennas with the companies’ core telecom networks. The latter strategy is the focus of the newly announced deal with Vodafone and Vodacom.


How tech team plans to put 4G service on the moon

Lander and rover
The PTScientist team’s Alina lander and Audi Quattro rover are on display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. (PTScientists Photo via Twitter)

Can you hear me now, on the moon? Not yet, but Nokia has just signed onto a team that aims to extend 4G coverage to the lunar surface as early as next year.

The Finnish company says it will be Vodafone’s technology partner in an industry-supported moonshot led by PTScientists, a German-based team that was one of the competitors in the soon-to-be-ended Google Lunar X Prize competition.

Even though PTScientists couldn’t make the deadline to go for the prize, it’s still working on a plan to send its Alina lander and two Audi Quattro rovers to the lunar surface. The team has a contract with Seattle-based Spaceflight to ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket or an alternative by as early as 2019.

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