Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet, has announced that it has received all necessary regulatory approvals to trial balloon-powered 4G LTE access on Telkom Kenya’s network next year. The pair have begun importing and installing ground infrastructure, with a view to conducting initial tests with balloons over the country in the first half of 2019. The pilot will take place within the general area of central Kenya, some of which has been difficult to service, due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain.
The Loon service will provide extended LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities, using high altitude balloons operating 20km above sea level. The balloons act as floating cell towers, transmitting a provider’s service directly to a subscriber’s LTE handset below. The regulatory approvals allow Loon to host Telkom spectrum on its stratospheric balloons, utilise millimetre wave spectrum to send connectivity from the ground to balloons overhead and import and install ground infrastructure.