Published: Sun, July 22, 2018
Technology | By Russell Knight

Kenya to get first deployment of internet balloons from Google parent

Kenya to get first deployment of internet balloons from Google parent

Loon, an Alphabet Inc subsidiary company, announced on Thursday that with Telkom they will deploy loon Internet balloons to provide internet access in Kenya from the next year.

The announcement comes just a week after Loon graduated from Alphabet's secretive "moonshot factory" known as X. That means it's considered a full-fledged company beside sibling companies including Google and self-driving vehicle developer Waymo.

A week after becoming an actual business, Alphabet's Loon struck its first commercial deal, which will involve serving smartphone users in central Kenya.

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In 2013, Google unveiled Project Loon, a plan to send a fleet of balloons into the stratosphere that could then beam internet service back down to people on Earth.

The balloons themselves are created to float for more than 100 days at a height of 60,000 feet.

After Puerto Rico was devastated by a hurricane previous year, Loon partnered non-commercially with USA telecoms companies to provide connectivity to more than 250,000 people.

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CEO of Loon, Alastair Westgarth, said: "Loon's mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies".

Under the agreement with Telkom Kenya, Loon - which delivers connectivity via high-altitude balloons - will trial LTE services in suburban and rural areas of Kenya, with the goal of a full launch in 2019.

"This partnership demonstrated the Board's commitment to guide and oversee the transformation of Telkom into a business with a reputation for innovation, with respect to its product and service offering", said Eddy Njoroge, chair of Telkom Kenya's board.

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Kaluka Wanjala, a Nairobi-based technology blogger, said that delivering connectivity to rural areas "will bring opportunities that we have seen the internet bring to other regions of Kenya".

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