Wish You Could Invest in Elon Musk's StarLink? Here's 1 Way to Invest in Space Internet Now

If you’re an internet business looking to make inroads into new markets, what better way to do so than by offering high-speed internet access to those targeted markets? That appears to be the approach Amazon (AMZN -2.52%) is taking.

In his second annual shareholder letter, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy provided some updates on the Project Kuiper satellite internet service. Amazon’s plan to launch a low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite internet puts it in competition with Elon Musk’s StarLink, which is a subsidiary of SpaceX.

The problem for investors is that SpaceX is not a public company like Tesla, another Musk venture. This means that the for the vast majority of would-be investors, buying shares of StarLink isn’t an option. But: If you’re interested in betting on the emergence of the space economy, Amazon stock could be a great investment.

What is Project Kuiper exactly?

Many investors are already well acquainted with Amazon’s cloud computing juggernaut AWS (Amazon Web Services). In fact, it’s AWS that generates all of Amazon’s operating profit these days.

Jassy noted that AWS closed out 2022 at an incredible $85 billion annual revenue run rate, and it’s still going strong. It has its hands in all areas of the economy, including the design of its own chips and computing systems.

But Amazon’s internet giant isn’t resting on its accomplishments. That’s where Project Kuiper comes in, envisioned as an LEO satellite constellation (satellites that orbit from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand kilometers above the Earth’s surface) that provides reliable, high-speed internet to the millions of households and businesses around the world that currently lack such a service.

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Jassy detailed how Kuiper could help remote corners of the globe enjoy internet-based services that many of us currently take for granted:

Imagine what they’ll be able to do with reliable connectivity, from people taking online education courses, using financial services, starting their own businesses, doing their shopping, enjoying entertainment, to businesses and governments improving their coverage, efficiency, and operations.

As with any satellite service, Kuiper requires a customer to install an antenna to access the internet being beamed down from above. Amazon designed some circuitry in house for these antennas, the newest of which are very small, at just 28 centimeters (11 inches) square and less than 2.3 kilograms (five pounds), and yet deliver up to 400 Mbps in internet download speed.

Getting an ambitious project like Kuiper – or StarLink – off the ground costs a lot of money. Manufacturing antennas is also quite costly, at least up front. Jassy said these newest antennas can be produced for as little as $400 – a win, considering that originally, Amazon set out to build them for less than $500 each. That will require a sizable chunk of change for new customers to get started, but the cost to deploy Kuiper internet will get cheaper over time.

Jassy says beta testing with commercial customers is expected in 2024.

Space is the final frontier for… e-commerce?

Of course, buying Amazon stock yields investors minimal exposure to the space economy, given that Kuiper is such a small upstart business compared to the massive Amazon empire. However, in typical Amazon fashion, Kuiper was planned as a small project to start but could be a big deal over the long term.

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Investors should view space internet not as a stand-alone industry, but as an extension of the pre-existing internet economy. As Jassy pointed out, Kuiper could bring millions of new customers into Amazon’s e-commerce fold. There are still wide stretches of the globe that do little to no shopping online, have no bank account, can’t stream online video, or can’t bring their business operations into the cloud. Kuiper could change all of that and fuel years of growth for the already sizable Amazon e-commerce and AWS cloud businesses.

By some metrics, Amazon’s valuation looks messy right now. Heavy spending over the last couple of years has pushed the company into free cash flow-negative territory. However, shares trade for a meager 2.1 times trailing-12-month sales, about as cheap as Amazon has traded for in the last decade. With Jassy and company expecting profitable results from their investments in the coming years, this stock could be cheap – especially given its far-reaching ambitions like space-based internet in the works.