Project Loon, a formerly Google experimental project that delivers internet connectivity to off-coverage areas through the use of a balloon system has announced its first commercial business in partnership with Telkom Kenya. The biggest change being that Project Loon is no more and in its place, we have Loon, a fully-owned subsidiary of Alphabet making it essentially Google’s sister company.
Enough with the family tree, Loon will be delivering Telkom’s LTE network to parts of rural Kenya as from 2019. Until date, Loon has not had any commercial involvement with their internet balloons project and Kenya will be its first as the company transforms from research and development to a revenue business model.
At the moment, Loon says that there are no balloons flying over Kenya as they are still finalizing terms of operation with Telkom Kenya. The details revealed were scanty, but Loon told Techweez that they are a business partner to Telkom, just like any other service provider who telcos lease base stations from. The team did not reveal the terms of the agreement but Loon hinted at the possibility of other telcos accessing the same balloons to beam their network.
The internet balloons are considered to be more reliable than grounded base stations. “Essentially, the balloons are floating base stations that offer the same experience as regular stations but with broader coverage and cheaper implementation,” said the team.
Loon’s balloons will be floating 20km above the ground and will cover a radius of about 35KM each, coverage that the team says is 20 times better than a regular base station. We were made to understand that there will be no significant loss of speeds and consumers will not even realize that they are connected to a balloon’s network.
For those curious, the balloons will beam Telkom’s 4G network, meaning that users will require to have 4G enabled phones and be Telkom users to be connected to one. In essence, this new development will help boost Telkom’s 4G coverage across the country.
On the matter of data security, the Loon team assured us that they have no access to the data flow. They are just providing the hardware for Telkom’s network to ride on and this was the reason why they decided only to beam 4G LTE as it is highly encrypted thus putting to bed any questions of whether Loon’s sister company, Google would use the data traffic to profile users and serve them targeted ads.
Telkom is Loon’s first client and Loon says that they are working round the clock to bring in more clients and deliver internet access to consumers in a way that has not been done before.