At CES 2023, the “wow” moment at Amazon’s Devices and Services Experience area featured an exhibit on Project Kuiper, an advanced, low-Earth orbit satellite broadband network that will deliver reliable, affordable broadband in the very near future to many who lack access in the United States and around the world. To commemorate Black History Month, we are featuring Winston Warrior, who heads global marketing for the initiative.
Amazon’s Project Kuiper aims to bridge the digital divide by giving people around the world access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet. It will also provide enterprises and government customers secure and scalable global internet service. By using satellites, Amazon will be able to deliver service in areas that are complex and expensive to serve with traditional communications technologies. In addition, by deploying the satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), Amazon will be able to offer internet with lower latency than is available through legacy satellite systems, which often operate in a higher geostationary orbit(GEO). Project Kuiper’s solution includes three key elements: advanced LEO satellites; small, affordable customer terminals; and a secure, resilient ground-based communications network.
The outsized impact of unequal access
Winston Warrior, the head of global marketing for Project Kuiper, is helping define Project Kuiper’s brand, build global awareness of the service, and acquire and retain customers. The initiative has personal significance for Warrior, who has seen firsthand how circumstances can impact a person’s life trajectory.
Originally from Atlanta, Warrior was raised in a single-parent home. “Because of the support from my family and community, I could go to school and had opportunities to participate in the band, be the drum major, and become the valedictorian,” said Warrior. “But, just a few miles down the road, my mother taught at one of the most underserved high schools in the city.”
Warrior saw the degree to which those students’ experiences stood in stark contrast to his own. He also saw how the life trajectories of those students were impacted negatively through an extreme lack of equality in opportunity.
After graduating from college, Warrior gained experience in several industries, working in traditional cable services, media, cellular mobility, and higher education. He left his dream job as a communications professor and marketing administrator at his alma mater, University of Miami, in 2021 to join Amazon and lead marketing for Project Kuiper.
“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to build the global marketing function and culture for Project Kuiper from the ground up. Helping guide what we do as a service, knowing it will revolutionize people’s lives both in the United States and around the world, was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Warrior.
Understanding the Challenge of Limited Internet Access
In an increasingly connected society, internet access is becoming a necessity. Students often need to complete research or submit assignments online. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual options largely replaced in-person learning across the United States. With options to work from home, adults need reliable internet access to communicate with clients and coworkers throughout the day. Even healthcare often requires an internet connection for telehealth appointments. Yet, many families don’t have fast enough internet access for these tasks. In rural or sparsely populated communities, there aren’t enough residents to make it worth the expense for traditional telecommunication providers to install infrastructure that would enable high-speed access.
Warrior gives the example of a family he visited in Petersburg, Virginia. The father sometimes needed to work from home, and the mother was running a business from home. Their three children were in school and needed internet access to do homework and submit assignments.
To support their work and school needs, the family paid exorbitant amounts for service from an internet provider and used five hotspots to supplement the service. “Even though they were investing all of that money, their internet access was still not good enough,” said Warrior. “The mother was having trouble keeping her business going because she couldn’t fulfill orders online. The father was having difficulty working from home because he didn’t have reliable enough internet to hold video calls. The children were having issues submitting their homework because the internet would drop with multiple people trying to connect at the same time.”
While Warrior was speaking with the family about the challenges they faced, his manager reached out with a request to forward a work document. Warrior planned to jump on his computer after the interview but realized that he couldn’t get a strong enough signal and would need to wait until he returned to the hotel.
“I saw just how important high speed internet access is and just how much we take it for granted,” said Warrior. “When you have high-speed internet at your home, you’re frustrated when the internet is lagging. Imagine if the slowest speed that you experience is the fastest internet that other families ever have.”
“People are scheduling their lives around how much internet they have left on a hotspot, what time of the day has the fastest access, and where they can go to get wireless internet,” said Warrior. “We understand the importance of equal access at Amazon, and we’re trying to make a difference.”
Closing the gap
When Amazon launches Project Kuiper service, communities around the world will start to gain access to fast, reliable, cost-effective internet, opening up opportunities for residents and businesses that they didn’t have before. Because Project Kuiper uses LEO satellites instead of fiber or cable lines, location isn’t as much of a consideration in who can access service; customers primarily need a clear view of the sky. From a residential standpoint, Amazon can provide internet in rural and remote areas that previously had limited options, so families don’t need to choose between moving out of their homes and staying connected.
To get internet access through Project Kuiper, customers will install a single terminal on their roof and an accompanying unit in their home that connects to the satellites. Customers will also benefit from a simpler process with a more reliable outcome at a lower cost. “We’re starting from the customer and working backwards from there,” said Warrior. “Affordability matters for many of these communities, and we’re keeping that in mind as we’re developing our service.”
Amazon is preparing to launch two test satellites before beginning to deploy the 3,236 satellites that make up its constellation in space. “With Project Kuiper, we are able to scale and bring broadband services to many places around the world, which is game-changing,” said Warrior. “We believe it will open new opportunities for telehealth and distance learning. People can start businesses, run them more efficiently, and have an overall better quality of life. I am so proud to be part of something that has always been close to my heart and part of the team making this happen.”
To learn more about Project Kuiper, visit https://www.aboutamazon.com/projectkuiper.