Telkom Kenya and Loon, an Alphabet company, have announced mobile internet service availability using Loon’s technology in remote parts of the country starting July 2020.
The two companies have successfully completed field and network integration tests and also service quality assessment across their infrastructure.
However, even with Loon’s advanced machine learning algorithms that work to keep the balloons afloat, there are some natural challenges such as wind patterns and restricted airspaces which could result in intermittent service availability.
Deployment of the technology will initially cover a region spanning nearly 50,000 square kilometres, including the areas of Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, and Narok.
Once the Loon balloons take to the sky, it is expected that Kenya will experience an increase in internet service consistency. This is also attributed to the balloons being solar powered and Telkom customers will get mobile Internet service connectivity for at least 15 hours a day.
In a statement, Telkom Kenya’s Chief Executive Officer Mugo Kibati said the development marks an exciting milestone for internet service provision in Africa and the world.
“This being a purely data service and with the continued migration of communication towards data-supported platforms, 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 Kibati.
Loon’s Chief Executive Alastair Westgarth said the imminent roll out is the culmination of years of work and collaboration between Loon, Telkom, and the government.
To provide service in Kenya, Loon and Telkom are utilising a fleet of around 35 or more separate balloons that are in constant motion in the stratosphere above eastern Africa.
The balloons come at a very crucial time when the country and the rest of the world is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on almost every sector.
The technology will help with online education and other crucial interventions such as health delivery using telemedicine as well as other digitised and automated platforms to enable the consumer still access services remotely.