Alphabet to deploy balloon Internet in Kenya in 2019

Google Project Loon internet balloon

Google's Loon internet service that aims to deliver high-speed internet to rural areas has signed its first commercial agreement, partnering with Kenya's Telkom network.

The technology involved uses high-altitude balloons that operate as inflatable cell towers. Kenya hopes the technology can help achieve full Internet coverage of its population.

The balloons themselves are created to float for more than 100 days at a height of 60,000 feet.

This being 2018, the balloons exclusively offer 4G LTE access, although Loon is looking at adding 5G support in the future. "We couldn't be more pleased to start in Kenya", said Loon Chief Executive Officer, Alastair Westgarth.

Less than two weeks after being spun off as a standalone business, Alphabet Inc.'s internet balloon company Loon LLC has landed its first paying customer: African mobile provider Telkom Kenya.

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Westgarth says Alphabet marks a significant milestone in a journey that began in 2013 when a New Zealand sheep farmer became one of the first to connect with Loon test balloons.

The balloons will be deployed in central Kenya, which Telkom says has been a challenge to service because of mountainous and inaccessible terrain.

The project called "Loon" was developed by Alphabet's X, the company's innovation lab. And while you might have a hard time thinking about going even a day without internet access, more than half of the world's population still can't log on.

The Loon service is an innovative approach to providing extended 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities, using high altitude balloons operating 20 kilometres (60,000 feet) above sea level, well above air traffic, wildlife, and weather events.

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