Loon, Alphabet-owned company, is currently working with Telkom Kenya to expand 4G availability to areas with low coverage. Loon uses balloon-powered internet in Kenya in partnership with Telkom Kenya and is planning an official roll out later this year.
Loon had earlier indicated that it would start testing its balloon-powered internet in Kenya in early 2019 and true to its word, the company is setting up infrastructure to do so. The company has announced the installation of a new ground station in Nyeri. This is the third ground station by Loon and is a key step towards the deployment of commercial service in collaboration with Telkom Kenya later this year.
Ground stations are key as they support balloon access to an internet connection. They are mainly located in places that already have access to Internet and data services.
How Loon Works
Loon works by beaming an Internet signal from these ground stations to a balloon 20km overhead. That signal can then travel across multiple balloons and long distances, allowing Loon to provide service far from where the ground station is located. In this way, Loon can reach underserved areas that have little or no connectivity.
The Loon service provides extended 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities. The balloons act as floating cell towers, transmitting a provider’s service – in this case Telkom’s service – directly to a subscriber’s existing 4G/LTE phone below. Loon’s equipment is powered by on-board solar panels, eliminating reliance on power infrastructure that is often lacking in rural or remote areas. The lack of such power infrastructure can be an impediment to setting up ground-based towers in such areas.
Loon and Telkom are working to enable more Kenyans to access the Internet via their mobile phones. With this new technology, Kenya will be a pioneer in extending the Internet to people who are not able to get reliable connections.
Loon has also worked closely with various Kenyan governmental bodies to secure all necessary approvals to begin testing and operating this year.