We have covered a lot about Project Loon, Alphabet’s arm that has already set foot in Kenya in partnership with Telkom Kenya, with the big plan being beaming a 4G/LTE connection to the masses in underserved areas. The development is undergoing several tests before it is fully deployed sometime in 2019, and is additionally waiting for approval from ICT regulators in the country.
The latest milestones the company has made is in terms of the distance that can be served by a given number of balloons. Loon says that it has successfully beamed a test internet connection 1,000 kilometres across seven balloons, which is roughly the same distance from the coastal city Mombasa to the Kenya-Uganda border. The company says the test was performed a few weeks ago in the United States (all of us should have been happier if the trials were done in Kenya but that may already be underway).
Either way, this means that Loon’s partnership with Telkom Kenya is seeing notable gains as the public eagerly waits for the connecting to hit their cellular devices in the coming year.
It should be known that this milestone was preceded by another development that sent a single connection across two balloons that were 600 kilometres apart, which marked the most extended single link to date.
“For a long time, a fundamental constraint of connectivity has been proximity, or a lack thereof, to where the internet is now. Loon is working to change this reality by making the internet reach further. With billions of people lacking connectivity, there’s a lot of ground to cover. As we prepare to launch commercial service starting in 2019, our ability to make connections across more balloons and longer distances will be a key enabler of our efforts to connect people everywhere,” noted Salvatore Candido, Loon’s Head of Engineering.
By sending an internet connection across several balloons, Loon is not merely enlarging the signal to the last balloon in the line to serve customers under its position; rather, each balloon in the network has the capabilities to pass a connection along while at the same time transmitting it to users on the ground. To put it differently, instead of one balloon using one ground-based connection point to link users to the internet, that same signal or connection point can be leveraged to power extra balloons, all of which can beam services to people below.
Perhaps the most important aspects of connection that Telkom Kenya will derive from Loon’s system is in terms of coverage area that is between 20 to 30 times larger than existing ground-based systems. Thus, Loon will connect more people sans building new ground infrastructure – a notable setback to providing connectivity to people in remote areas.