Your Amazon Echo will get Sidewalk soon if it hasn’t yet. Here’s why it matters

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Amazon Sidewalk will be available this month.


Ian Knighton/CNET

Some people noticed something unusual this week — some Amazon Echo devices have 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 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 exactly is Amazon Sidewalk?

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, 900 Mhz 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.

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


Josh Miller/CNET

How does 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?

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.

How can I turn Amazon Sidewalk off?

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.

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You can turn off Amazon Sidewalk in the Alexa app.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Which Amazon Echo devices 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 a connection longer distances).

  • Amazon Echo (second-gen, 2017, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo (third-gen, 2019, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo (fourth-gen, 2020, BLE and 900MHz)
  • Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (first-gen, 2019, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (second-gen, 2020, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot (first-gen, 2016, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot (second-gen, 2016, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot (third-gen, 2018, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot (fourth-gen, 2020, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition (third-gen, 2020, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Plus (first-gen, 2017, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Plus (second-gen, 2018, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show (first-gen, 2017, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show (second-gen, 2018, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show 5 (2019, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show 8 (2019, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Show 10 (2020, BLE and 900 MHz)
  • Amazon Echo Spot (2017, BLE only)
  • Amazon Echo Studio (2018, BLE only)

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.


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