Telkom and Google sister company to provide 4G internet through balloons

Telkom and Google sister company to provide 4G internet through balloons

The project will launch in 2019 and is to be supported by Telkom Kenya.

Wing and Loon have been part of the Alphabet "moonshot factory" known as X, creating projects with potential to disrupt new sectors. The project will provide internet signals across a massive area, using solar panels on board to generate power.

The provision of this high speed internet service will make it Alphabet's first commercial deal in Africa.

The balloon-powered internet will start rolling out next year in the country's central region, which has been hard to serve due to its mountainous terrain -making it an ideal testing ground.

Telkom and Google sister company to provide 4G internet through balloons
Telkom and Google sister company to provide 4G internet through balloons

The balloons are solar-powered, allowing them to remain aloft for upwards of 100 days and reside at 60,000 feet, well above commercial air traffic, providing coverage to an area of 5,000 square kilometers, or 3,106 square miles.

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 project's balloons had previously been used for non-commercial deployments to deliver coverage in the wake of natural disasters; most a year ago, following flooding in Peru and a hurricane in Puerto Rico.

"Our path to success as a company is through providing value to mobile network partners like Telkom Kenya and helping them extend their reach to places where ground-based infrastructure can't go", Loon Chief Executive Officer Alastair Westgarth explained on Medium. "We couldn't be more pleased to start in Kenya".

With more than 45 million people, Kenya's major cities and towns are covered by operator networks, but vast swathes of rural Kenya are not covered.

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