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Coronavirus Speeds Up Approval Of Google’s Internet Balloons In Kenya

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We have written about Project Loon a number of times. Last time we noted that the balloon-based internet service was undergoing commercial trials in Kenya.

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It’s taken the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic for Telkom Kenya and Google to get approval to finally deploy the balloons which will beam satellite internet in remote regions of the East African country.

The press statement released by Telkom mentions that the deployment has been done with remote work in mind:

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To foster communication and to enable Kenyans to retain and enhance remote access to their offices and enterprises, my administration has granted approval that will ensure universal 4G data coverage is available throughout our country.

I am pleased to announce that the Kenya Civil  Aviation Authority has signed an agreement with Google Loon in order to allow Loon balloons over Kenyan airspace. These balloons which will hover above our commercial airspace will carry 4G base stations and have the capacity to provide wider signal coverage.

This intervention will enable Kenya to retain her competitive advantage in ICT and innovation in the midst of the current crisis while at the same time laying foundations for greater expansion once the current health challenge is contained. The development will also enable Telkom Kenya and Google Loon to start the commercial rollout of 4G data network in our country. These two companies have been testing this service for the last two years.

Once inaugurated, this service will extend Telkom Kenya’s 4G network to areas that are not covered by any of our mobile network providers. Therefore, all Kenyans, wherever they are in the country, will enjoy access to high speed and affordable internet services. I know the gesture by Google Loon and Telkom to offer their 4G to support our efforts in surveillance and management of coronavirus infections and this will go a long way to containing the present health challenge.

How will the service work?

Loon’s CEO also shared a blog post with some insight on what this means for Kenyans. The balloons will be launched from the US and Loon expects that it will be a number of weeks before the balloons arrive in Kenya. Once they’ve arrived they’ll have to go through network integration and only after will service be provided to citizens.

Given the global situation with COVID-19, we’re working as fast as we can to deploy the Loon service in Kenya to help in the short-term, and establish sustainable operations that will continue to serve Kenyans for the long-term.

Like many businesses big and small, Loon’s operations have seen some impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic…

…With the groundwork we have already laid in Kenya, however, we’re confident that we can address these challenges and begin providing meaningful service to Kenyans in the near future.

Alastair Westgarth – Loon CEO

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