Alphabet To Deploy Google Project Loon In Kenya

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Balloon-powered high speed Internet to arrive in rural Kenya thanks to Project Loon deployment

Alphabet has signed the first deal of its moonshot project that will see it beam high speed internet into large rural regions of an African country from the upper atmosphere.

Project Loon has been developed by Google ever since 2011, and now it has been signed its first ever commercial agreement with Telkom Kenya.

The deal will see Project Loon deliver Internet connectivity to parts of central Kenya, from 2019.

A Loon balloon prototype is shown at launch. Credit: Alphabet

Kenya connectivity

Outside of the major population centres, large swathes of Kenya lacks Internet connectivity, Reuters has reported.

But the agreement with Telkom Kenya will provide citizens in those rural areas with Internet coverage.

It comes after Project Loon last week began launching antennas attached to giant balloons into the stratosphere to beam internet down to Earth.

It should be remembered that Google has been perfecting its balloon-based Internet for a number of years now. The tech was used by American telecom operators to provide connectivity to more than 250,000 people in Puerto Rico after a hurricane last year fro example.

But Project Loon has also been used to restore Internet in Peru after the earthquake there in 2017 and it has also been trialled in countries such as Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

“Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies,” Alastair Westgarth, the chief executive of Loon is quoted by Reuters as saying.

Telkom Kenya is apprently the third biggest operator in the country behind market leader Safaricom and Bharti Airtel’s Kenyan unit.

“We will work very hard with Loon, to deliver the first commercial mobile service, as quickly as possible, using Loon’s balloon-powered Internet in Africa,” said Aldo Mareuse, the chief executive of Telkom.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Standalone entities

Earlier this month Alphabet said it plans to spin off two research projects, Wing and Loon, into separate companies under the Alphabet umbrella.

The projects started off as “moonshots” under Alphabet’s X research division, but the company said they were ready to become early-stage companies

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