Last year, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) partnered with Telkom Kenya in hopes of bringing internet delivering balloons to the Kenyan skies and the project is about to go into its testing phase.
The commercial trial of Loon is reportedly set to take place later this year after the equipment has been delivered to the target site. From there Telkom Kenya will then provide access to customers spread out across a number of villages which are in the mountainous region of Kenya. The rates will be at par with what customers on more “traditional” network infrastructure get to pay which will be quite welcome as some of these areas get to pay higher for access since laying down infrastructure is much more expensive.
Loon’s infrastructure is reliant on high-altitude balloons that have solar powered network equipment and the company’s hopes are that this model will make it cheaper to roll out infrastructure in areas that are difficult to build or don’t justify the cost of laying down permanent infrastructure.
There might be one problem on the horizon. Loon’s profitability is still in question and Reuters had this to say earlier this month:
Kenyan officials are enthusiastic as they try to bring more citizens online.
But executives at five other wireless carriers courted by Loon across four continents told Reuters that Loon is not a fit currently, and may never be. Those companies, including Telkom Indonesia (TLKM.JK), Vodafone New Zealand (IPO-VOD.NZ) and French giant Orange SA (ORAN.PA), say Loon must demonstrate its technology is reliable, safe and profitable for carriers.Reuters article
If Loon passes that final test, then in a few years this may become the norm for delivering the internet to regions that don’t usually get access to the latest and greatest technologies as urban centres do.
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