SpaceX and Amazon are taking swipes at each other even before they both launch competing satellite broadband services. In this early round, they're duking it out at the FCC and on Twitter over Starlink's proposal to lower the orbits of thousands of satellites.
Amazon, which is pursuing a low-Earth orbit satellite broadband service under the "Project Kuiper" initiative, objects to the plans for SpaceX's Starlink service, holding that lowering the orbits could raise the potential for satellite collisions and cause harmful radio interference. Amazon also thinks the proposed changes could "hamstring competition among satellite systems."
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to address Amazon's objections, arguing they don't serve the public interest.
It does not serve the public to hamstring Starlink today for an Amazon satellite system that is at best several years away from operation
SpaceX holds that its modified plan envisions a 10 Gbit/s downlink capability – versus the current 100 Mbit/s capabilities – along with a 30-millisecond roundtrip latency.
SpaceX also attempted to address objections to its plan at the FCC. In a filing (PDF) last week describing a meeting between SpaceX Director of Satellite Policy David Goldman and FCC officials, the company held that its LEO-based system uses autonomous collision avoidance systems and that it is committed to "keeping space clean."
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Source: SpaceX via FCC filing.
In its slide show for the FCC, SpaceX also asserted that Amazon "has engaged in [a] continuous carping to undermine authorizations from competitors."
Amazon responded to SpaceX's and Musk's arguments via Twitter:
Amazon's response: (1/3) The facts are simple. We designed the Kuiper System to avoid interference with Starlink, and now SpaceX wants to change the design of its system. https://t.co/hY1xNFuOwL
In follow-up tweets, Amazon argued that the proposed Starlink changes do indeed create a more dangerous environment for collisions in space and increased radio interference. "Despite what SpaceX posts on Twitter, it is SpaceX's proposed changes that would hamstring competition among satellite systems," Amazon added. "It is clearly in SpaceX's interest to smother competition in the cradle if they can, but it is certainly not in the public’s interest."
Network neutrality advocates want the FCC to open a proceeding to reinstate broadband as a Title II service amid a pandemic that has amplified the need for broadband connectivity, particularly for low-income households.
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