NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Kenyans in rural and sparsely populated areas will from next year access high-speed internet through high altitude balloons which act as cell towers.
This is after Telkom signed an agreement with Google sister company, Loon, which has been testing delivery of 4G/LTE internet through the high-altitude balloons.
The balloons, which operating 20 kilometres above sea level, well above air traffic, wildlife, and weather, transmit a provider’s service and are powered by solar panels.
This will be Loon’s first commercial service in Africa after successful test and deployment in Sri Lanka and Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Marina.
Telkom Kenya Chief Executive Aldo Mareuse says the partnership with Loon will expand LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya where it has been difficult to service due to the mountainous and inaccessible terrain.
“We will work very hard with Loon, to deliver the first commercial mobile service, as quickly as possible, using Loon’s balloon-powered Internet in Africa,” says Mareuse, adding that this will further enhance Telkom’s network to its customers.
Earlier this year, Analysys Mason – a UK-based consultant retained by the Communication Authority of Kenya – had recommended tower sharing between mobile telco operators which will allow customers in some areas in Kenya access mobile services.
The balloon-technology is set to reduce the cost of setting up base stations especially in sparsely populated areas.
“Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies. We couldn’t be more pleased to start in Kenya,” said Loon Chief Executive Officer, Alastair Westgarth.