Amazon eyes bringing satellite internet business Project Kuiper to India – TechCrunch Leave a comment

Amazon appears to have identified another market to launch its fast and affordable internet service, Project Kuiper: India.

Job listings show the American e-commerce group is looking to hire managers in India to launch the internet service, for which the company plans to use low Earth orbit satellite constellation.

One position, based in Bengaluru, seeks to hire a manager to execute and handle the project’s licensing strategy in India and Asia-Pacific countries. The company is also hiring a business strategy lead for its Country Development team to “launch and operate” the broadband service worldwide.

“A successful candidate will be both entrepreneurial and highly analytical, able to work extremely effectively in a matrix organization and adept at understanding how businesses work in India and how to create innovative, cutting edge solutions for our customers,” Amazon describes in the job listing.

The company, which has been said to be working on launching its internet service in India for more than a year, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Amazon unveiled Project Kuiper in 2019 with an aim to deploy a massive broadband satellite internet constellation — taking on SpaceX’s Starlink, at least on paper. The Seattle-headquartered company has promised to invest over $10 billion in the project and said it intends to provide affordable broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the world.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year approved the company to launch and operate its constellation of over 3,200 internet satellites. The company plans to launch its first satellites later this year and has indicated that the U.S. could be the first market where it rolls out Kuiper’s internet.

Alongside offering direct broadband connectivity to consumers, Project Kuiper has said it also plans to provide backhaul service to carriers.  In April, Amazon announced its partnership with commercial space companies Arianespace, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to secure up to 83 launches for its low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite system.

Even as India is already the world’s second largest internet market, about half of its population is still offline. Data compiled by the World Bank shows that only 43 percent of India’s total population was using the internet in 2020, a figure that is significantly less than that of the U.S., where the internet penetration rate is 91 percent.

This explains why so many tech giants have attempted to launch their internet services in India over the years.

Last year, SpaceX’s Starlink announced plans to launch as many as 200,000 terminals in India by end of 2022. The company enthusiastically began taking pre-orders in India, until haphazardly abandoning the project after failing to secure the local government’s approval.

OneWeb, a Bharti Airtel-backed London-based company, is one of the key players to kick off their satellite-based broadband services in India. It has partnered with the Indian Space Research Organisation unit New Space to launch its satellites.

Tata Group-owned Nelco is also in the race to offer high-speed internet via satellites in India. Similarly, Reliance Jio announced its native satellite-based broadband service called Jio Space Technology in February, for which it has partnered with Luxembourgish satellite and terrestrial telecom provider SES.

“I’m very sure that by next year, we are going to get broadband satellite communication,” said Lt. Gen. AK Bhatt, Director General, Indian Space Association (IsPA), in an interview with TechCrunch.

Launched last year, IsPA has members including Larsen & Toubro, Nelco, One-Web, Bharti Airtel and Walchandnagar Industries. It engages with both government and its agencies and private players to operate as a “collective voice” of the Indian space industry.

Bhatt noted that the government would likely announce its New Space Policy 2022, which will fully clarify the regulatory regime.

“The initial broadband services by LEO constellations may be marginally costly, but market forces and volumes will overcome this. In the long run, satcom broadband will be ‘Fiber in the Sky,’ which will provide seamless communication to the user,” he said.