Loon launches balloon internet service in rural Kenya
Loon, an Alphabet Inc. company in conjunction with Telkom Kenya, has launched the world’s first commercial high-speed internet service in the Rift Valley of Kenya using balloons.
This service is expected to provide low-cost fourth-generation internet service to rural communities in Kenya. Although this is new to Kenya, the technology was deployed in Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane in 2017, and also never been used commercially.
“Kenya is the first country… to have base stations high up in the sky. Now we will be able to cover the whole country in a very short span of time,” said Information Minister Joe Mucheru after launching the service.
After the launch of the service, Information and Communications Minister, Joe Mucheru said, “Kenya is the first country… to have base stations high up in the sky. Now we will be able to cover the whole country in a very short span of time.”
Furthermore, Chief Executive of Loon, Alastair Westgarth said, “We are effectively building the next layer of the mobile network around the world. We look like a cell tower 20 km in the sky.”
Westgarth further stated that the floating base stations have much wider coverage, about a hundred times the area of a traditional cell phone tower.
The large, translucent balloons are fitted with a solar panel and battery which hung in the upper atmosphere, high above planes and weather.
Aside from that, the balloons are software equipped with artificial intelligence to navigate flight paths without much human intervention.
In addition, Westgarth said Loon has a deal to roll out the service with Vodacom in Mozambique and has seen increased interest from operators and governments after the coronavirus crisis forced people to depend on the internet.
“It has really accelerated existing discussions,” Westgarth added.
Also, Board Chairman of Telkom, Eddy Njoroge said Silicon Savannah has marked a moment in history where higher connectivity will be key to emerging stronger from the economic contraction by Covid-19.
“In the new normal, schools dare closed and only the well-off families can afford e-learning programs. This launch is a big step to enable several rural schools to access digital education and keep learners in class,” he added.
The internet service is launched from facilities in California and Puerto Rico which are controlled via computers in Loon’s flight station in Silicon Valley, using helium and pressure to steer.