Kenya to get first deployment of internet balloons from Google parent

Yolanda Curtis
July 22, 2018

Loon's balloons float high in the stratosphere, around 20km (12.4 miles) above sea level; a height the company says is out of range of air traffic, storms and wildlife. Kenya's major cities and towns are covered by operator networks, but large parts of rural Kenya are not.

Loon finally graduated from X this month, becoming an Alphabet company in its own right. The balloons act as floating cell towers, powered by solar panels and transmitting Telkom's service to people below.

The deal, between new Alphabet spin-out Loon and Telkom Kenya, will provide rural and suburban populations in Kenya with high-speed internet service.

This will be Loon's first commercial service in Africa after successful test and deployment in Sri Lanka and Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Marina.

As an initiative, Kenya has been chosen as the home-country for a Google-affiliated company to start its first-announced commercial deal that will deliver internet access to remote areas using high-altitude balloons.

The balloons will be deployed in central Kenya, which Telkom says has been challenging to service due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain. The balloons are created to stay aloft for months at a time, and move by surfing wind channels, predicting speeds and directions so that they can navigate in the direction they need to travel. And it's planning to bring its balloon-powered internet to Kenya.

"That only leaves the kinds of technology that Loon and other fully wireless solutions provide".

"Loon's mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies", said Alastair Westgarth, the chief executive of Loon.

Kenya, with loon Internet balloon technology, is looking to get full internet access in the country. "However, it is imperative that this partnership not only achieves quality connectivity (4G) but also that it is affordable and meaningful".

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