In July, Google’s Alphabet announced that it would launch internet-powered balloons tagged Project Loon in Kenya. The service, which targets to avail internet access to remote areas via high-flying balloons, secured a partnership with Kenya’s third largest mobile operator Telkom. However, Telkom announced that the project could only proceed after regulatory approval by the Communications Authority (CA). To this end, CA has finally given Telkom and Loon a nod to deploy the service.
Loon reports that ground infrastructure installation is in progress.
Telkom and Loon will perform collaborative tests in the first half of 2019. The test will precede commercial rollout that will target remote areas in Central Kenya. More geographically-challenged locations will then be served afterward.
Telkom will use the balloons to beam 4G signals as it aims to increase internet coverage in the country. The carrier, which launched LTE services in 2017, has been expanding the service to more towns outside Nairobi. Loon should push coverage in areas where deployment of towers is both expensive and tedious. For instance, the project can beam internet connection 1000 kilometres across seven balloons, which is roughly the same distance from the coastal city of Mombasa to the Kenya-Uganda border.
“Together with Telkom Kenya, we have been working in close collaboration with the Kenya Communications Authority, Civil Aviation Authority, and others to secure the needed approvals to usher in Africa’s first-ever deployment of this innovative solution to connect unconnected and under-connected communities. We are grateful to these agencies for their support, collaboration, and innovative approach to expanding connectivity,” says Loon’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alastair Westgarth.
“Telkom remains focused on bringing innovative products and solutions to the Kenyan market. Our association with Loon will see us partner with a pioneer in the use of high-altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya. This collaboration represents another important step towards Telkom’s quest to provide high-quality, reliable and affordable data offerings to its customers and Kenyans in under-served locations across the country,” says Telkom in a statement.
“CA wishes to congratulate Telkom Kenya and Loon LLC on making progress toward the launch of Internet services in the underserved and un-served regions of the country, using new and innovative technologies. The Authority granted the requisite approvals to the two entities for deployment of Internet services using Loon’s Balloon powered technology on a trial basis. We encourage other industry players to leverage on new and emerging technologies to roll out ICT services, particularly in remote and rural parts of the country,’’ states Francis Wangusi, Director General, CA.
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