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Amazon Sidewalk is coming to your Echo very soon. Here's why it matters

The new feature will be available on most Amazon Echo speakers by the end of this month. Here's what you need to know, and why it might already be on.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Katie Teague
3 min read

Amazon Sidewalk will be available this month.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Earlier this month, some people noticed something unusual -- some Amazon Echo devices spontaneously enabled the new Sidewalk feature, a free neighborhood network sharing service announced last year. While Amazon doesn't intend to launch this feature until sometime later this month, it didn't stop the new feature from being enabled in some peoples' Alexa apps. 

We'll tell you what Amazon Sidewalk means for your Echo device, how you'll use it, and how to turn it off if you'd rather not have it on.

What is Amazon Sidewalk and how will it be used?

Amazon Sidewalk is a free network sharing service throughout neighborhoods that uses Echo devices as bridges to share a small fraction of your home's Wi-Fi bandwidth with Sidewalk-compatible devices. There are data caps in place that won't exceed 500MB, or one-fortieth of your bandwidth. Sidewalk uses Bluetooth low-energy, 900Mhz spectrum and other frequencies to create a low-bandwidth network in your neighborhood.

Each Echo is able to extend coverage for up to half a mile. For each Echo in your neighborhood with Sidewalk turned on, the internet bandwidth is pooled together to create a larger shared network. It's essentially like sharing Wi-Fi with your neighbors when you're out of reach of your own network. The more people who contribute, the stronger your local outdoor network will be for you and your neighbors, Amazon claims. 

You can use the service to keep devices connected that are located outside in your yard or in your garage -- for example, a smart garage door opener. Also, if you've lost something connected to Sidewalk -- like your dog that has a Fetch or Tile tracker attached to its collar -- it can help you locate it.


If you misplace something with a Tile tracker attached, Sidewalk can help find them.

Josh Miller/CNET

How will Amazon Sidewalk affect my Echo speaker?

Your Echo speaker acts as a "bridge" from your home's Wi-Fi to offer bandwidth to other devices outside your house. This means others can draw from your network, and vice versa. For example, if your Echo device loses Wi-Fi connection, Sidewalk can help it to remain connected by linking up to a neighbor's Sidewalk connection.

When will Sidewalk start working on my Echo device?

While you may see Sidewalk in the Alexa app already, the service itself isn't active, so you can't use it yet. Amazon hasn't announced a specific launch date, but says it will be available by the end of 2020. Since we're now in December, it's likely you can expect to see it within weeks. 

Amazon hasn't said which devices will first go online at launch, but as with most new features, it will roll out to people at different times. Amazon will notify you when the service becomes available.

Can I turn Amazon Sidewalk off? How?

To turn off Amazon Sidewalk, open the Alexa app and tap More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk and toggle the switch off. Note that it may automatically be turned off for you, as it was for me. There's also a switch called Community Finding, which you can toggle on or off to help your neighbors find their items connected to Sidewalk.


You can turn off Amazon Sidewalk in the Alexa app.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Amazon Echo devices that will work with Sidewalk

Here's a list of Echo speakers that are compatible with Sidewalk. Note that only the Echo Show 10 and the new spherical Echo are the only speakers that can send long-range, low-bandwidth signals on the 900MHz band (in other words, the most effective at sharing connection from longer distances).

For more new Amazon Echo tips, here's how to turn your Fire TV into a larger Amazon Echo Show. Also, here are five surprising music hacks to try with your Amazon Echo and the four best things you can do with more than one Echo speaker.

Watch this: Amazon Echo Dot (4th gen) review: Dot, Dot, Dot...