New member of the Alphabet family of companies, Loon, has just received approval from Kenyan authorities to begin commercial testing of its Internet-delivering balloons with Telkom Kenya.
Providing connectivity to remote areas has been a fundamental aim of Loon. And since it began operations in 2011, its goal has been to bring internet connectivity to areas of the world where it is too costly or not feasible to erect cell towers for internet connectivity.
For three years, Loon has enabled wireless carriers to use balloons to replace cell phone towers that were destroyed in Peru and Puerto Rico by a natural disaster. And now, the company is making good on a promise to bring this technology to Africa which has a fairly large number of remote communities without access to broadband internet.
From the data gathered during its earlier testings, one of the balloons can provide coverage of up to 5000km which is twice the size of cape town and its surrounding areas.
The internet access will not be free of charge as Loon aims to fix a subscription amount based on size of the coverage area, plus fees linked to data usage on the telecom provider.
If Loon successfully tests its balloons in Kenya by working with Telkoms, it is hoped that the model will be replicated to take internet connection to other parts of Africa.
The profitability of the balloon service is also to be determined with this Kenya-based test. Other telco companies including Kuwait-based carrier Zain Group, New Zealand’s Vodafone and French giant Orange SA say they are watching the Kenyan trial closely to determine if they will be interested in being carrier partners in Google’s balloon technology.
If the results are positive, we would then be potentially interested.Hervé Suquet, chief technology and information officer for Orange Middle East and Africa
A lot rests on Loon’s trial in Kenya. While it holds lots of potential for communities in Africa, its acceptance and reach and profitability depends largely on how well it works with the local telecommunications provider already existing in Africa.
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