Telkom Kenya and Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet, have announced that the progressive deployment of Loon technology in Kenya will begin this month. The project partners have revealed that they are approaching the completion of their network integration tests, during which a maximum downlink speed of 18.9Mbps and an uplink speed of up to 4.74Mbps was registered. The service will initially cover a region spanning nearly 50,000 square kilometres, including the areas of Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho and Narok.
First announced in Kenya in July 2018, the Loon service will provide extended LTE coverage to unserved and underserved areas of the country, 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. To provide service in Kenya, Loon and Telkom are utilising a fleet of around 35 separate balloons that are in constant motion in the stratosphere above eastern Africa. Balloons are launched from locations in the United States and navigate to Kenya using wind currents in the stratosphere. Loon and Telkom have also worked with Nokia and Liquid Telecom to install ground stations in Nairobi, Nakuru and Nyeri.
‘This is an exciting milestone for internet service provision in Africa and the world, more so that the service will pioneer in Kenya,’ stated Telkom’s CEO Mugo Kibati, adding: ‘This being a purely data service and with the continued migration of communication towards data-supported platforms, the internet-enabled balloons will be able to offer connectivity to the many Kenyans who live in remote regions that are underserved or totally unserved, and as such remain disadvantaged. This new technology will also complement Telkom’s ongoing strategy to further widen our network coverage, enabling us to realise our brand promise; to be Kenya’s preferred data network.’