The following guide compares Project Kuiper vs. Starlink. With so many new and exciting internet options, it can be hard to choose.
Amazon and SpaceX are two of the largest tech companies in the world. Connecting people to the internet is in their best interests.
Consequently, each of these companies has released an internet service provider. But what’s the difference between the two and which will suit your needs the best?
The following guide endeavors to answer these questions by providing you with a side-by-side comparison of the two services.
What is Starlink and How Does it Work?
Starlink is a satellite-based internet service provider. It’s one of the few consumer and residential products that SpaceX offers.
In addition to its parent company, what makes it unique is that it uses a collection of small Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.
This satellite constellation allows Starlink to present faster internet transfer speeds, produce connections with lower latency and cover more areas than traditional satellite internet.
This makes it ideal for places with no cable or high-speed mobile internet coverage, such as rural areas. Starlink offers packages for residential homes, mobile homes, vehicles, ocean vessels and much more.
What is Project Kuiper and How Does it Work?
Satellite internet has existed for some time now. However, it’s always had a reputation for sluggish connection speeds and high latency.
No other company provided internet through a satellite constellation until Amazon introduced Project Kuiper.
Project Kuiper (now Kuiper Systems) shares the same ultimate goal as Starlink: providing global internet coverage through a constellation of LEO satellites. However, Project Kuiper’s main aim is affordability.
Its terminals (antennas) promise to be affordable and far more compact than the options currently on the market. Amazon has yet to launch Project Kuiper’s consumer products and packages.
When writing this guide, they had yet to launch a single satellite into space. Amazon plans to launch its first few satellites by 2026. It hopes to have a fully operational constellation by the year 2029.
If all things go to plan, Project Kuiper could offer packages not too dissimilar from Starlink’s.
Double Exposure Image of Business Men Collaborating
Side-By-Side Project Kuiper Vs. Starlink Comparison
By September 2023, Starlink was officially available in over 60 countries. However, more impressively, it had over a million subscribers.
Albeit, it’s important to note that availability isn’t only determined by coverage. Sometimes, a country’s laws may not permit external internet service providers from operating in said country (e.g., South Africa and China).
However, if you have Starlink coverage in an unsupported country, you can still access Starlink’s services through Starlink Roam. Starlink continues to grow its satellite constellation by mass-producing and regularly launching new satellites.
As of October 2023, the company had roughly 4199 operational satellites in orbit. Nevertheless, despite its expanding capacity, potential customers may still have to endure a long wait list (3-12 months).
When writing this guide, Amazon had yet to launch a single satellite. As such, there was no coverage to speak of. However, they plan to offer global coverage through their constellation of 3,236 satellites.
We can be certain that Starlink will continue to expand its global reach. Project Kuiper has a lot of catching up to do. It’s recently partnered with Vodafone to help it extend its 4G and 5G coverage.
Again, this aligns with its goal to supply broadband internet in areas without access to fiber optic options.
Satellite Orbiting the Earth
Starlink’s equipment list is well-established. There are three main kits:
- Standard Kit: For everyday users. It features an antenna, base, router, connection cable and AC cable. The package costs $599.
- High Performance: For power users and enterprises. Its equipment includes a more powerful antenna and router. It also comes with a power supply, ethernet cable, router cable, and AC cables, which will cost you $2500+ combined.
- Flat High Performance: For mobile applications. It consists of a wedge-mounted antenna, power supplies, routers and all the necessary cabling. The entire package costs $2,850+.
The standard kit is easy enough to self-install. However, both High-Performance kits require the expertise of a professional.
In addition to the hardware fee, installation can cost you as much as $99, depending on the complexity of the installation.
So far, Project Kuiper has only released specifications for its terminals. These terminals come in three categories:
- Standard Customer: 2.54cm (1 inch) thick, less than 27cm (11 inches) square and weighs less than 2.5 kg (<5 lbs). Each of these terminals costs less than $400 to produce.
- Ultra compact: Sports a 7-inch square design and weighs less than 500 grams (<1 lbs.). This will be Project Kuiper’s low-cost option.
- High-bandwidth: Project Kuiper’s high-performance option, aimed at enterprises and organizations. It measures 48 cm by 76cm (19 x 30 inches) and will be the most expensive option.
Amazon has yet to release any specs related to its planned modems or routers.
Satellite Constellation Internet Antenna
Performance largely depends on your subscription and your hardware. Starlink offers four subscription packages:
- Standard (Fixed): Can achieve download speeds of up to 100 Mbps, upload speeds of up to 10Mbps and latency as low as 25 m s.
- Priority (Fixed): Can achieve download speeds of up to 220 Mbps, upload speeds of up to 25 Mbps, and latency as low as 25 m s.
- Standard Mobile: Can achieve download speeds of up to 50 Mbps, upload speeds of up to 10 Mbps, and varying latency that is lower than 99ms.
- Mobile Priority: Can achieve download speeds of up to 220 Mbps, upload speeds of up to 25 Mbps, and varying latency that is lower than 99ms.
To benefit the most from the Fixed Priority package, you’ll need a High-Performance kit. It has a higher throughput than the Standard kit and thus won’t cause a bottleneck.
Despite their terminals being smaller than most antennae and receivers on the market, Project Kuiper’s high-bandwidth terminals promise to deliver speeds of up to gigabit download speeds.
On the other hand, its low-cost terminals promise to deliver maximum download speeds of 100Mbps. Whereas its standard terminal will offer download speeds of up to 400 Mbps.
Project Kuiper has yet to release any information on subscription packages or latency.
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In addition to equipment fees, Starlink charges $120 monthly for Starlink Residential (Fixed), which is its cheapest option.
It charges $250 for Starlink Business (Fixed Priority), $150 for Starlink Roam (Standard Mobile) and $250 for Starlink Mobility (Mobile Priority).
Project Kuiper has yet to release any information on its pricing plans. It’s important to note that any plans or projections the company has released so far are likely to change.
However, since they will be competing with Starlink, we can expect to see prices that are either cheaper or on par.
Rising Prices Image
So far, SpaceX’s Starlink has had very limited customer support. You can only essentially contact them through email. It may take weeks for them to respond.
It’s important to remember that SpaceX is a private rocket launching company that’s traditionally made most of its money from government contracts and investors.
Starlink was introduced as a way to fund its other projects. Thus, it isn’t experienced in delivering nuanced consumer experiences. Hopefully, this will change sometime soon.
Since Amazon has not officially launched Project Kuiper’s services, we can’t accurately assess their customer support.
However, since this is an Amazon project, we can look at the company as a whole and its history with customer support.
Amazon has multiple customer support channels. Their customer support call center is available to you 24 hours a day.
You can contact it through its 1-8888-280-4331 number. Amazon also offers an online live chat and help page and has multiple social media accounts.
If this is anything to go by, Project Kuiper will have far superior customer support than Starlink.
Customer Service Workers on The Phone
The above text explores Project Kuiper vs. Starlink. Competition breeds innovation. More options stand to benefit the consumer the most. It will make prices cheaper, push innovation and prevent complacency.
Starlink continues to expand its customer base. When Amazon finally goes into full operation, it will have a lot of catching up to do.
It’s hard to tell which one will be best by the year 2030. Starlink will still have greater coverage. However, Project Kuiper will most likely deliver a better customer experience.
But for the time being, Starlink remains the best LEO satellite-based internet service provider.