Project Kuiper strikes LatAm deal covering seven markets

Amazon's Project Kuiper has struck a deal to provide low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite services in no fewer than seven countries in Latin America.

Nick Wood

June 13, 2024

2 Min Read

It has done a distribution deal with Vrio, parent company of DirecTV Latin America and Sky Brasil, which between them serve customers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.

Under the agreement, Vrio will use Kuiper to provide nationwide high-speed Internet services to residential customers in these markets, which boast a combined population of some 383 million people. Amazon said this figure includes around 200 million people who – according to World Bank estimates – do not currently have an Internet connection.

"This collaboration with Project Kuiper is in line with our strategy of extending our services throughout South America and continues to define us as a regional leader in information, digital entertainment, connectivity and innovation promotion," said Vrio president Darío Werthein. "We are concerned with bridging the technology gap and even more so the digital divide for our future generations. And the time is now. Our commitment translates into action. Providing Internet access across the region ensures the development of communities; and that is a commitment for our company."

It's a big win for Amazon.

Despite lagging its rivals in the LEO space race – most notably SpaceX-owned Starlink and Eutelsat OneWeb – this Vrio agreement is the latest in a string of recent deals that shows there are still considerable opportunities for Project Kuiper to snaffle up.

Last November, it established a strategic partnership with NTT DoCoMo and Asia's largest satellite operator, Sky Perfect JSAT, under which they plan to use Kuiper's network to improve comms availability and resiliency across Japan's more remote islands and mountainous regions.

In September, Amazon signed a deal with Vodafone and its South Africa-based Vodacom unit to extend the reach of 4G and 5G services in Europe and Africa. They will take aim at areas that are too challenging or expensive to justify deploying terrestrial networks.

Not bad for an operator that is yet to put any satellites into commercial service. In fact, Project Kuiper will soon have fewer satellites in orbit than it did a month ago.

It has all but completed the successful testing of its first two prototype satellites – KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 – which were launched back in October 2023. However, there is one outstanding test it needs to carry out – deorbiting.

For any LEO operator, this is an important part of keeping a lid on potentially dangerous space junk. Over the next few months and with help from atmospheric drag, KuiperSats 1 and 2 will use their active propulsion systems to descend to an altitude of around 217 miles, after which they should burn up in the atmosphere.

The data collected will help Amazon finesse its deorbit process. In the meantime, Amazon is scaling up satellite production in preparation to commence the full-scale deployment of its commercial network over the coming months. It remains on track to begin testing services with select customers later this year.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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