NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 15 – Google sister company, Loon, and Telkom have secured the regulatory approval to test balloon-powered internet.
Loon has begun importing and installing ground infrastructure in Kenya with initial test on Telkom’s network expected in the first half of 2019.
Loon’s Chief Executive Officer Alastair Westgarth said that Loon and Telkom are working collaboratively with governmental agencies to bring Loon’s service to Kenya.
“We have been working in close collaboration with the Kenya Communications Authority, Civil Aviation Authority, and others to secure the needed approvals to usher in Africa’s first-ever deployment of this innovative solution to connect unconnected and under-connected communities,” said Westgarth.
The regulatory approvals allow Loon to host Telkom spectrum on its stratospheric balloons; utilise millimeter wave spectrum to send connectivity from the ground to balloons overhead, and import and install ground infrastructure.
Loon has worked with Telkom, Nokia, East Africa Data Centre, and Liquid Telecom to install ground stations in Nairobi and Nakuru.
Communications Authority Director General Francis Wangusi says the technology will help deliver internet to the unconnected and under-connected using Loon’s Balloon powered technology on a trial basis.
” We encourage other industry players to leverage on new and emerging technologies to roll out ICT services, particularly in remote and rural parts of the country.’’
Loon’s solution works by beaming Internet connectivity from these ground stations to a balloon 20km overhead.
From there, the signal can be sent across multiple balloons, creating a network of floating cell towers that deliver connectivity directly to a user’s LTE-enabled device below.
Combined with the large coverage area of each balloon – roughly 30 times greater than a ground-based system – Loon makes it possible to provide service to traditionally hard-to-reach areas.
In Kenya, Loon and Telkom have announced that the initial service area will be in the general region of central Kenya, some of which has been difficult to service due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain.