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Project Kuiper to bring more satellite links to Africa

Vodacom and Vodafone will use Amazon’s Project Kuiper’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to extend the reach of their networks.

Vodafone and Vodacom plan to use Amazon’s Project Kuiper network of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to extend the reach of 4G and 5G services in Europe and Africa.

The high-bandwidth, low-latency satellite network will bring the benefits of 4G/5G connectivity to areas that may otherwise be challenging and prohibitively expensive to serve via traditional fibre or microwave solutions. Project Kuiper will connect geographically dispersed cellular antennas back to the companies’ core telecom networks. This means Vodafone and Vodacom will be able offer 4G or 5G services in more locations without the time and expense of building out fibre-based or fixed wireless links back to the core networks.

The strategic collaboration with Amazon comes at a time when efforts to bring Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite Internet service to more African countries has stalled. Musk’s SpaceX, which operates Starlink, is believed to have declined working with South African authorities on regulatory aspects of bringing the service to the country. This has opened an opportunity to companies already operating in countries with such barriers to entry.

Meanwhile, Amazon plans to partner with Vodafone to roll out Project Kuiper’s high-speed broadband services to unserved and underserved communities around the world. The companies are also exploring additional enterprise-specific offerings to provide businesses with comprehensive global connectivity solutions, such as backup service for unexpected events and extending connectivity to remote infrastructure. 

Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services and Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone group chief executive.

Vodafone group chief executive Margherita Della Valle says: “Vodafone’s work with Project Kuiper will provide mobile connectivity to many of the estimated 40% of the global population without internet access, supporting remote communities, their schools and businesses, the emergency services, and disaster relief. These connections will be complemented further through our own work on direct-to-smartphone satellite services.”

Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, says: “Amazon is building Project Kuiper to provide fast, affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in unserved and underserved communities, and our flexible network means we can connect places that have traditionally been difficult to reach.

“Teaming with a leading international service provider like Vodafone allows us to make a bigger impact faster in closing the digital divide in Europe and Africa. Together we’ll explore how we can help our customers get the most value from expanded connectivity, particularly in areas like residential broadband, agriculture, education, healthcare, transportation, and financial services.”

Vodafone, Vodacom and Project Kuiper will begin deploying services in Africa and Europe as Amazon’s production satellites come online. Amazon is preparing to test two prototype satellites in the coming months before starting to deploy production satellites in 2024. Amazon expects to begin beta testing Project Kuiper services with select customers by the end of 2024, and Vodafone and Vodacom plan to participate in that testing through this collaboration.

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