Google’s sister-company Loon has announced its first commercial deal of partnering with Telkom Kenya to deliver internet access to remote regions of rural Kenya. The firm’s antennae-dangling fleet will ride the wind high above parts of the African country.
Originally known as Project Loon, the technology behind the internet balloons was developed under parent company Alphabet’s experimental division, X.
Aldo Mareuse, chief executive of Telkom in his words said: “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”.
Loon’s balloons float high in the stratosphere, around 20km (12.4 miles) above sea level; a height the company says is out of range of air traffic, storms and wildlife.
The tennis-court-sized balloon is made from polyethylene, filled with helium and powered by a solar panel. The balloons are designed to stay aloft for months at a time, and move by surfing wind channels, predicting speeds and directions so that they can navigate in the direction they need to travel.
Each balloon carries an antenna, which relays internet signals transmitted from the ground, extending coverage over an area of 5,000sq km.