Amazon.com Inc. struck a settlement to use Verizon Communications Inc.’s network to connect its thousands-strong planned fleet of satellites, climbing up a competition with Elon Musk’s StarLink system. Amazon’s billionaire founder Jeff Bezos has invested $10 billion to satellite subsidiary Kuiper Systems LLC, which intends to launch 3,236 satellites into low-earth orbit to give broadband internet access.
Amazon will now search ways this so-called “constellation” of spacecraft could connect up to Verizon’s terrestrial telecommunications network and connect remote areas and businesses, the companies said in a statement Tuesday.
The deal will intensify the new space heat fired by billionaire investment. Bezos, the world’s second-richest man, is colliding with the world’s richest, Elon Musk, whose Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has launched above 1,500 low-earth orbit satellites into space and clashes with Bezos’s Blue Origin on launch technology.
Musk lately taunted Bezos after his enormous wealth exceeded that of the Amazon founder. He’s now worth more than a quarter of a trillion dollars, compared to Bezos’s $193 billion. Kuiper Systems in September filed a harsh criticism with the Federal Communications Commission, challenging Musk and his companies of ridiculing ordinances with a general attitude that “rules are for other people.”
The effort to provide low-earth-orbit satellite broadband draws in other investors, including more billionaires and governments. Investments like OneWeb, supported by Indian telecommunications tycoon Sunil Mittal and the U.K. government, recently struck a contract with AT&T Inc. to hook up customers via enduring land-based networks.
Amazon and Verizon will examine technical and commercial models for new services and increase Verizon’s network using Kuiper’s satellite broadband. Verizon and Amazon have previously collaborated on other communications technology, such as edge computing.
A spokesperson for Verizon said it’s a global partnership with Amazon, and it’s open to examining similar deals with other companies. Still, he declined to comment on the investments of the agreement.