TAMPA, Fla. — Japanese satellite operator Sky Perfect JSAT and an investor in the company that also owns telcos in the country have partnered to sell services from Project Kuiper, Amazon’s broadband constellation set to begin launches next year.
JSAT and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation said Nov. 28 they will distribute Project Kuiper connectivity on Amazon’s behalf to businesses and government organizations in Japan, and telcos owned by NTT would also be customers to bolster their terrestrial networks.
The partnership comes a month after the Japanese companies got certified to resell broadband to businesses in the country from Starlink, SpaceX’s low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation already in service with more than 5,000 satellites.
Amazon envisages more than 3,200 satellites for its LEO system and plans to start deployments en masse in the first half of 2024 now that two Kuiper prototype satellites launched in October have completed testing. Initial services are projected for the second half of 2024, ahead of the company’s first major regulatory deployment deadline to have half the constellation up by July 2026.
The partnership is Amazon’s first in the Asia-Pacific region following an agreement with British telecoms giant Vodafone to test the services in Europe and Africa, and a similar arrangement with Verizon in the United States.
JSAT and NTT also plan to participate in beta tests Project Kuiper has scheduled for the second half of 2024 with an undisclosed number of satellites in LEO.
Japan is well served by fiber and wireless communications on the ground, JSAT said in a Nov. 28 news release, but the country’s mountains and islands make it challenging to restore connectivity terrestrially in the aftermath of a natural disaster or other emergency.
NTT DOCOMO, NTT’s mobile network operator, has plans to use Project Kuiper to connect customers in areas where it would be too difficult and costly to build cell towers.
The companies said Project Kuiper would enable customers to connect to Amazon’s cloud-based infrastructure to run advanced technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence in more places. The network could also help connect off-the-grid tracking and monitoring Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
For JSAT, the partnership gives the operator another way to supplement its geostationary fleet with lower latency satellite connectivity as the space industry increasingly shifts toward more multi-orbit solutions.
The geostationary operator was at one point a minority investor in a LEO broadband startup called LeoSat, which collapsed in 2019 after failing to find additional investment.
JSAT lists 17 satellites in its fleet — including four it jointly owns with Intelsat and another Intelsat spacecraft that it leases transponders from — giving the Tokyo-based operator coverage across Asia, Oceania, Russia, the Middle East, Hawaii, and North America.