Amazon Strikes Big South America Telcom Deal for its Satellite Business

On Thursday, Amazon’s Project Kuiper announced a deal with South American telecom company Vrio to provide internet to seven countries.

Photo of a satellite dish
Photo by Fran Werner via Pexels

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Amazon will soon be beaming broadband down over the actual Amazon.

On Thursday, Amazon announced a deal with South American telecom company Vrio. The deal will see Vrio use Amazon’s satellite internet business, named Project Kuiper, to provide internet to seven South American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. Kuiper has a lot of catching up to do if it’s going to pepper the night sky with satellites like its rival Starlink, but big telecom deals like the one with Vrio give it an infrastructural edge.

Starry Fight

Project Kuiper is Amazon’s big dream for competing with SpaceX, which is way ahead in actually launching satellites into orbit. There are a little over 6,000 Starlink satellites currently circling the planet, whereas Kuiper only just launched two prototype satellites at the end of last year. It plans to start launching fully functional ones sometime this year, with the goal of getting 3,236 up into low-Earth orbit to form its “constellation.”

Commercially Starlink and Kuiper are going after the same niche: providing high-speed broadband to remote places that lack it. Starlink is increasingly turning into a military contractor, though it also does direct-to-consumer sales and has struck deals with the transport industry, promising to provide internet to planes and shipping containers. Kuiper on the other hand seems to be courting telcos:

  • Kuiper struck a deal with a bushel of major Japanese telecom companies in November last year. Kuiper wasn’t necessarily on the front foot with that deal, however, as a month previously Japanese telcos got permission to resell broadband from Starlink.
  • In September last year, Kuiper also struck a deal with British telecom giant Vodafone to help roll out larger 4G and 5G service in Europe and Africa. Vodafone said at the time that Kuiper customers including itself expected to start beta-testing the service sometime this year.

While Kuiper and Starlink may be bitter rivals, they occasionally partner. In December, Amazon announced it had bought passage on three SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets to take its satellites into space in mid-2025. Though it’s true that booking came a few months after an Amazon investor sued the company saying it had unduly favored founder Jeff Bezos’ space exploration company Blue Origin over SpaceX.

Bigger Fish: SpaceX has a lot on its plate this week without worrying about competition from Amazon. First The Wall Street Journal published an article detailing CEO Elon Musk’s questionable relationships with female staffers. In the WSJ piece, SpaceX’s COO Gwynne Shotwell denounced the reporting as “untruths, mischaracterizations, and revisionist history.” Then Bloomberg reported that a group of former employees filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company. Included in the lawsuit is an allegation that a SpaceX training video “mocks and makes light of sexual misconduct and banter” including a… misjudged bit of satire that was more Benny Hill than you’d expect from an HR department.