Published: Sun, July 22, 2018
Industry | By Terrell Bush

Loon’s first commercial internet balloon deal is in Kenya

Loon’s first commercial internet balloon deal is in Kenya

Alphabet's Loon project said Thursday that its balloons will bring internet to remote parts of Kenya next year.

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 auto operator Waymo.

Alphabet, parent company of Google says it will be delivering internet to Kenyans using its system of balloons.

This will be Loon's first commercial deal for in Africa as the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary seeks to offer 4G network coverage to Kenya's rural and suburban populations.

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The pilot project will focus on central Kenya, which the operator stated is a challenging area to cover due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain.

The balloons themselves are created to float for more than 100 days at a height of 60,000 feet. Kenya hopes the technology can help achieve full Internet coverage of its population.

Westgarth says Alphabet marks a significant milestone in a journey that began in 2013 when a New Zealand sheep farmer became one of the first to connect with Loon test balloons (as per PTI). Most recently, the company's balloons were used in Puerto Rico to provide emergency 4G/LTE service to 100,000 people following the devastation from Hurricane Maria.

Earlier this year, Analysys Mason - a UK-based consultant retained by the Communication Authority of Kenya - had recommended tower sharing between mobile telco operators which will allow customers in some areas in Kenya access mobile services. "This is a first for all of us, and over the coming months we will collaborate on the technical, operational, and other work needed to expand Telkom's network to more people in Kenya", he wrote in a Wednesday blog post.

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