In August 2017, we covered Alphabet’s ‘Wi-Fi for the World’ Project dubbed Loon. At that time, 10 balloons were deployed in Nakuru, Nyeri, Nanyuki, and Marsabit as a test program. Additional details regarding the workings of the project in allowing internet access in remote areas can be read in this piece.
Fast forward to mid-2018, we learned that Google was in talks with local telecoms operators to see if they could strike a partnership with Project Loon. At that time, Kenya’s third largest operator, Telkom, was mentioned to be part of the negotiations with folks from Google, which is not surprising owing to the work the carrier has put in to popularize and improve its internet services.
Well, it appears that the two institutions have agreed to pursue this project as Telkom has finally announced the signing of a definitive agreement to pilot an innovative 4G/LTE access network with the American company.
Also, this will be Loon’s first commercial service on the continent.
“This partnership demonstrates the Board’s commitment to guide and oversee the transformation of Telkom into a business with a reputation for innovation, with respect to its product and service offering. This partnership with Loon is also a true testament of our resolve to deploy pioneer technologies due to their potential impact on our customer,” notes Telkom Kenya’s Board Chair, Mr. Eddy Njoroge
“Telkom is focused on bringing innovative products and solutions to the Kenyan market. With this association with Loon, we will be partnering with a pioneer in the use of high altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya. 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,” says Mr. Mareuse, adding that this will further enhance Telkom’s network to its customers.
“We are extremely excited to partner with Telkom for our first engagement in Africa. Their innovative approach to serving their customers makes this collaboration an excellent fit. Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies. We couldn’t be more pleased to start in Kenya,” stated Loon Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Alastair Westgarth.
The service is said to go live to the general consumer in 2019. At the moment, however, Loon will be subject to regulatory approval and further tests especially in Central Kenya where internet deployment has been a challenge thanks to geographical limitations. The exact coverage will be determined in the coming months.