For a company that started out as an online bookstore, Amazon sure has its fingers in a lot of pies these days.
Thanks to Amazon Web Services, the company is one of the biggest players in cloud computing. Amazon makes and sells its own tablets, media streamers, and other devices (including eReaders, of course). Amazon practically invented a new product category with the Echo line of smart speakers. Oh, and Amazon owns grocery store chain Whole Foods now, for better or worse.
So what’s next? Apparently Amazon wants to become an ISP.
The folks at GeekWire spotted a set of regulatory filings that explain Amazon wants to launch 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit and use them to deliver broadband internet service.
Right now Amazon is calling the initiative Project Kuiper, and the company confirmed to GeekWire that the goal is to “provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world.”
In other words, the goal isn’t necessarily to topple existing big-name internet service providers — it’s to get more people online, particularly those in areas that haven’t been well served because it’s inefficient to run cables to every home in some rural areas.
Amazon isn’t the only company that thinks a constellation of low Earth satellites could provide a way to do this. Last year SpaceX received regulatory approval for a similar project. GeekWire notes that other companies including OneWeb, Telestat, LeoSat, Facebook, and Boeing also have similar plans, with some companies having already launched their first satellites.
Meanwhile, Google’s Project Loon and Project Wing have been demonstrating that you don’t necessarily need to leave the atmosphere to provide internet access to hard-to-reach areas. The company’s been doing it with balloons and drones.
Amazon hasn’t received approval to start launching satellites yet, and it could be a few years before it’s ready to do so. There’s no word on whether the next step will be to launch a bookstore in space.