Google’s internet air-balloon service Loon has dispatched a larger fleet of balloons to Kenya after successful launches from the launch site in Puerto Rico this week.
The Loon balloons will complement eight others that are part of a network integration exercise in Kenyan airspace. The first balloon arrived in the country’s airspace on April 2, a week after the government of Kenya approved the service deployment.
The balloons will provide Loon’s first ever commercial connectivity services to Kenyans in conjunction with local partner, Telkom Kenya.
Flying at a height of roughly 65,000 feet in the Earth’s stratosphere, the balloons are expected to begin arriving above Kenya in the coming weeks.
The balloons navigate on air currents to make their way to their target destination through a circuitous route, which is determined by Loon’s automated navigation software.
Upon arrival in Kenya, the balloons maintain a relatively stable position over the target coverage area. They also move up and down in the stratosphere to catch different air currents, taking short trips in a fixed geographic area to provide 24-hour internet coverage to customers on the ground.
The Loon service will use its 4G/LTE Internet solution to provide stable, reliable and fast connectivity to unserved and under-served communities in Kenya. Initial coverage areas include Nairobi, Machakos, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kitui, Nanyuki, Narok and Kisii.
Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth says: “We’re extremely excited to be sending additional balloons to Kenya for further testing with Telkom, and we look forward to beginning to provide service in the near future. We’re very grateful for the support of the government and all Kenyans as we work to bring balloon powered Internet to Kenya as quickly as possible.”
Telkom Kenya’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mugo Kibati noted: “These balloons will be used to expedite integration testing of this pioneer LTE service. We will glean off insights from those tests to fast track integration of all other balloons that have been dispatched from Loon Inc.’s launch sites and are to arrive in Kenya over the coming few weeks. Once the balloons are in place, this new technology will complement Telkom’s ongoing strategy to further widen its network coverage, confirming the telco as Kenya’s preferred data network.”