Kenya has launched the google loon balloons that will enhance access to the internet on the fourth generation (4G) network in 14 Counties across the country.
This comes after Telkom Kenya entered into a partnership with Google parent firm Alphabet at an undisclosed amount in the first ever commercial deployment of loon internet balloons in the world.
The project has been some two years in the making and effectively provides a series of floating cell phone towers with a 4G internet connection.
“The Internet-enabled balloons will be able to offer connectivity to the many Kenyans who live in remote regions that are underserved or totally unserved, and as such remain disadvantaged,” said Mugo Kibati, Telkom Kenya’s CEO.
Speaking during a virtual launch of the balloons in Radat, Baringo County, President Uhuru Kenyatta challenged locals to take advantage of the improved telecommunication infrastructure to advance their socio-economic activities.
President Kenyatta urged traders in Baringo County to seek buyers of their products beyond the Kenyan borders by selling their products online.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru termed the launch as historic, adding that Kenya Continues to lead the world in matters technology.
The balloons carry two radio transceivers; one which transmits internet connectivity to a user’s phone, acting essentially as a cell phone tower, and another, connecting the balloons together and to internet infrastructure on the ground from which it picks up the connection to serve to users.
Customers will only get access to the internet via the balloons between the hours of 6 am and 9 pm since the technology relies on solar power.
“This is the culmination of years of work and collaboration between Loon, Telkom, and the government,” said Alastair Westgarth, Loon’s CEO.
Last year, Alphabet Inc’s loon said it would deploy its system of balloons to beam high-speed internet access with Telkom Kenya to cover rural and suburban populations, marking its first commercial deal in Africa.
The technology was used by US telecom operators to provide connectivity to more than 250,000 people in Puerto Rico after a hurricane last year.
The Loon service uses balloons, which are powered by an on-board solar panel, to provide 4G coverage to areas with lower population densities.
They float at 60,000 feet above the sea level, well above air traffic, wildlife, and weather events.