Alphabet’s Loon has finally launched its balloon-powered internet in Africa, following a deal with the Kenyan government. This service is provided by Loon in partnership with the local telecom provider Telkom Kenya.
This is the first large scale commercial offering, using Loon’s high altitude balloons, that essentially work as cell service towers, drifting on currents in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. This cellular service is available through their network across an area spanning roughly 50,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles) that normally hasn’t received reliable service to date, owing to the difficulty of setting up a ground infrastructure on mountainous terrain.
Loon had signed its commercial deal with the Kenyan government in 2019 and had been working on it since then. Also, with the onset of COVID-19, the aim to provide reliable cellular service became even more important, especially due to restrictions on travel that the pandemic has placed. This cellular service will assist in contacting doctors, family members, etc. an easier task, especially in the remote areas.
Loon’s fleet of 35 solar-powered balloons to provide reliable connectivity in Kenya
To provide the best in class cellular service, Loon has set up a fleet of 35 balloons acting together, that would be moving together constantly to maintain the target area coverage. These balloons have been launched from locations in the United States and are being navigated to Kenya using wide currents. The average speed of this solar-powered fleet is around 18.9Mbps down and 4.74 Mbps up, with a latency of 19 microseconds.
Want to publish your own articles on DistilINFO Publications?
Send us an email, we will get in touch with you.
As per Loon’s report, when tested in real-time, it seems that this cellular service has served well for use in video and voice calls, as well as Whatsapp and YouTube streaming services. Also, as per the Alphabet’s Loon, more balloons are expected to be released as more experience in flying is gained.
The path taken by Loon’s balloon fleet aims at providing service in the target area in Kenya
Tech companies increasing their investment, focusing on higher growth in Africa
This advanced development highlights a growing trend of tech companies focusing on Africa for high growth investment opportunities. As per data shared by the UN, the continent has the highest concentration of young people in the world, but just a quarter of these young people have access to the Internet.
Loon had started testing this service earlier this year and had many customers connecting to the network, without even realizing it during these tests. The company said that to date, it has served around 35,000 customers and provided the services listed in these tests.
Before this commercial launch, Loon has also provided these balloons to serve the disaster-affected area that includes Puerto Rico, affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The company is now working with several telecom partners, for a non-emergency service in some underserved regions globally