Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Google's Loon is putting the cloud in the clouds across Kenya

Alphabet rolling out Internet balloons with Telkom Kenya Alphabet Will Bring Its Balloon-Powered Internet to Kenya
Troy Mann | 22 July, 2018, 07:28

The balloons float at 60,000 feet (20 km) above the sea level - high over air traffic, wildlife, and weather events.

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.

Loon finally graduated from X this month, becoming an Alphabet company in its own right. This marks the first time Loon has inked a commercial deal with an African nation.

Alphabet's balloon-powered internet is going to Africa.

"This partnership demonstrated the Board's commitment to guide and oversee the transformation of Telkom into a business with a reputation for innovation, with respect to its product and service offering", said Eddy Njoroge, chair of Telkom Kenya's board.

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A Google-affiliated company has chosen Kenya as the home of its first announced commercial deal for delivering internet access to hard-to-reach areas using high-altitude balloons. To navigate, they ride wind currents and get power from the sun. The vast distances of the region mean that laying fibre cables or building an array of mobile masts is impractical. With this association with Loon, we will be partnering with a pioneer in the use of high altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya.

Kenya's ICT ministry has since lauded the move saying it will bring down costs and deepen internet use across all segments of the population.

Loon-enabled internet service will be provided to portions of central Kenya starting next year, according to Loon chief executive Alastair Westgarth who said the company's goal was to "connect people everywhere".

Nanjira Sambuli, advocacy manager for the World Wide Web Foundation, noted that the UN Broadband Commission's target for internet affordability says 1GB of mobile data should cost no more than 2% of gross national income per capita.

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