Earlier today in an address by President Kenyatta, it emerged that Project Loon, the high-flying, internet-beaming balloon project by Telkom Kenya and Google (Alphabet) will actually come to fruition.
For more than two years, the two companies have been conducting tests in various parts of Kenya, and even got a nod from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
However, there were some issues with mass rollout because it was yet to get approval from two other institutions: the Ministry of Transport and Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
These bureaucracy issues have now been ironed out, which means we will be seeing the balloons fly around in the near future. The balloons will beam 4G signals to areas that are poorly served by mobile operators, or those that are hard to get access to due to geographical limitations.
The balloons will be dispatched from Loon’s site in the USA, and they will arrive in Kenya in the next couple of weeks.
As soon as the balloons get here, Loon and Telkom will perform the final stages of network integration testing before deployment to target regions.
The COVID-19 menace will force the teams managing the project to start beaming internet signals as soon as possible.
“Given the situation with the COVID-19 virus and the need for enhanced connectivity, Loon and Telkom are working as quickly as possible, given the limitations resulting from the worldwide pandemic,” reads a statement from Telkom.
The installation and testing process before deployment will be performed with the help of Nokia and Liquid Telecom. Ground stations will be set up in Nairobi, Nakuru, and Nyeri.
As said, Loon will target underserved and unserved communities in the country. Initial coverage areas have been selected, and will mainly serve the larger central area of the state, mainly mountainous and remote areas that make service accessibility and availability a challenge.
“Telkom remains focused on bringing innovative products and solutions to the Kenyan market. Our association with Loon will see us partner with a pioneer in the use of high-altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya. This collaboration also represents Telkom’s continued support of the Government, which will, in the long run, seek to help arrest the spread of the coronavirus that has now entered our borders,” says Telkom Kenya’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mugo Kibati.
Loon has been used previously in disaster emergency response in collaboration with the Governments of Peru and Puerto Rico.
“The learnings from these two assignments would be crucial to helping address some of the connectivity challenges that may be presented by COVID-19,” concludes the statement for Telkom Kenya.