Published: Sun, July 22, 2018
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Loon partners with Telkom Kenya for commercial LTE

Loon partners with Telkom Kenya for commercial LTE

Loon, which became an independent company last week, began as a project at X - Alphabet's research-and-development facility - in 2016.

The provision of this high speed internet service will make it Alphabet's first commercial deal in Africa. Most recently, the company's balloons were used in Puerto Rico to provide emergency 4G/LTE service to 100,000 people following the devastation from Hurricane Maria.

The pilot will take place within the general area of central Kenya, some of which has been hard to service, due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain. Kenya hopes the technology can help achieve full Internet coverage of its population.

Alphabet subsidiary Loon intends to send its giant balloons to Kenya, where they will beam the internet to the country.

The loon service use balloons would be powered by an on-board solar panel to provide fourth-generation 4G internet connectivity to areas with low population.

The balloons are solar-powered, allowing them to remain aloft for upwards of 100 days and reside at 60,000 feet, well above commercial air traffic, providing coverage to an area of 5,000 square kilometers, or 3,106 square miles.

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". The only problem is that most internet access is driven not by satellites, but by deep sea cables, so we do wonder if there will be sufficient bandwidth unless loads more internet ready satellites are launched into space complete with very clever routers. Kenya's major cities and towns are covered by operator networks, but large parts of rural Kenya are not.

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