Vodacom taps Amazon’s Project Kuiper to connect Africa
Vodafone and Project Kuiper, Amazon’s low Earth orbit satellite communications initiative, today announced a strategic collaboration through which Vodafone and Vodacom plan to use Project Kuiper’s network to extend the reach of 4G/5G services to more of their customers in Europe and Africa.
Project Kuiper is an initiative to increase global broadband access through a constellation of 3 236 satellites in low Earth orbit. Its mission is to bring fast, affordable broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the world.
It competes with Elon Musk’s Starlink service, among others. SpaceX’s Starlink remains unavailable in South Africa, although it has gone live in several African countries.
Vodafone and Vodacom plan to use Project Kuiper’s high-bandwidth, low-latency satellite network to 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.
In a statement, the companies say 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/5G services in more locations without the time and expense of building out fibre-based or fixed wireless links back to the core networks.
As part of the collaboration, 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 exploring additional enterprise-specific offerings to provide businesses with comprehensive global connectivity solutions, such as a backup service for unexpected events and extending connectivity to remote infrastructure.
Margherita Della Valle, Vodafone Group chief executive, 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 service and disaster relief. These connections will be complemented further through our own work on direct-to-smartphone satellite services.”
“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,” says Dave Limp, Amazon senior vice-president for devices and services.
“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.”
“At Vodacom, our purpose is to connect for a better future, and we work every day to bring more people in Africa online,” says Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group.
“Collaborating with Project Kuiper gives us an exciting new path to scale our efforts, using Amazon’s satellite constellation to quickly reach more customers across the African continent.”
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.
It 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.