Kenya to get first deployment of internet balloons from Google parent

Alphabet rolling out Internet balloons with Telkom Kenya

Alphabet Will Bring Its Balloon-Powered Internet to Kenya

In 2013, Google unveiled Project Loon, a plan to send a fleet of balloons into the stratosphere that could then beam internet service back down to people on Earth.

Loon became the fourth firm that emerged from Alphabet's X lab project and joined other subsidiaries to become Google's sister company, such as smart-thermostat maker Nest, health-data firm Verily and self-driving vehicle operator Waymo. Loon's equipment is powered by on-board solar panels.

Loon, the Alphabet-owned company focused on bringing internet connectivity to rural populations, has announced its first commercial deal, which will see it partner with Telkom Kenya to deliver online access in rural Kenya via balloon.

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. This provides fourth generation (4G) coverage to areas with lower population densities.

Alphabet rolling out Internet balloons with Telkom Kenya
Internet balloons to be deployed in Kenya next year

The company had successfully used the technology to bring Internet connectivity to people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island past year.

The balloons float at 60,000 feet above sea level, well above air traffic, wildlife and weather. The operator will work with Loon to specify the most effective coverage areas, but will require regulatory approval before they can begin offering services.

"Our path to success as a company is through providing value to mobile network partners like Telkom Kenya and helping them extend their reach to places where ground-based infrastructure can't go", Loon Chief Executive Officer Alastair Westgarth explained on Medium. Kenya's major cities and towns are covered by operator networks, but large parts of rural Kenya are not.

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