On Tuesday 7th, Alphabet’s Loon project marked a significant milestone as it finally started supplying 4G internet through its balloons in Kenya following a successful deal with the government.
Loon is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space, delivering mobile connectivity to people in unserved and underserved communities around the world.
In April 2020, the Kenyan government approved for Google and Telkom Kenya to deploy Loon balloons with the goal of providing faster internet countrywide. This approval marked Loon’s first commercial service not just in Africa but also globally.
Over the course of the following months, Loon then went on performing final network testing and preparing to bring connectivity to people who subscribe to mobile service with Telkom Kenya.
By use of Loon’s balloons, Telkom plans to serve select areas in the Rift Valley and Central Kenya such as Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, and Narok.
Loon plans to use a fleet of about 35 balloons in Kenya, and it describes the system as a “carefully choreographed and orchestrated balloon dance.” To provide coverage over a large area, Loon loads about five to 10 balloons. Together, they can provide an aerial mesh network with backup balloons waiting nearby, ready to tap in.
The balloons hover about 12 miles up in the stratosphere, and in a recent field test, Loon recorded an uplink speed of 4.74 Mpbs, a downlink speed of 18.9 Mbps and a latency of 19 milliseconds. With this partnership, the Kenyan government hopes this will help close the digital divide by providing affordable internet to previously unserved or underserved areas.
At the moment, the sky is only the limit for the Loon project as they are eyeing to launch commercial service in Mozambique and parts of the Peruvian rainforest.