Andy Jassy. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE
Andy Jassy. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE

Technology firm Amazon Web Services (AWS) has launched a satellite service to help its customers download and upload data faster and cheaper.

Billions of people across the  world rely on satellites for a variety of applications, including weather forecasting and communications. Thousands of satellites are orbiting Earth collecting data. However, it is expensive for AWS’s customers as they have to build or lease ground antennas to communicate with the satellites, says AWS.

AWS, a unit of online retailer Amazon, offers specialised technology platforms that allow customers to store data in the cloud and build software applications.

Speaking at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said most AWS customers have complained about the high costs and complexity of using satellites, hence the decision to launch the business.

 It will allow customers to save up to 80% of their ground station costs by paying for antenna access time on demand. They can rely on AWS’s global footprint of ground stations to downlink data when and where they need it, says AWS.

According to AWS, customers can use AWS Ground Station on an as-needed, pay-as-you-go basis. They can get access to a ground station on short notice to handle a special event such as severe weather, a natural disaster, or a sporting event. Companies can also reserve capacity in advance.

“It is a total game changer on how people can interact with satellite,” says Jassy.

Senior AWS vice-president Charlie Bell said satellite “data is incredibly useful for building a wide range of important applications, but it is super complex and expensive to build and operate the infrastructure needed to do so”.

AWS will have 12 satellite facilities in operation by mid-2019 that will be connected to its centres across the world. It is partnering with several satellite companies including Spire Global, DigitalGlobe and BlackSky. 

AWS plans to open its first data centre in Africa in Cape Town in early 2020. Its local clients include Absa, Investec, MedScheme, MiX Telematics, Old Mutual, Pick n Pay, Standard Bank and Travelstart. AWS said these companies and many more are using AWS to drive cost savings, accelerate innovation, and speed up time-to-market.

  • The writer is attending the re:Invent conference in Las Vegas as a guest of AWS.