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Google’s Loon internet balloons to start offering service to Kenyan subscribers this month

Google’s Loon internet project is one of those futuristic concepts that a lot of nerds will be rooting for and after months and months of testing – it’s about to finally launch for consumers.

The deployment of the service was fast-tracked because of COVID-19 in order to “help improve communications during the coronavirus pandemic“. Telkom and Alphabet just finished testing the service – a process that included 35 000 customers.

This is an exciting milestone for Internet service provision in Africa and the world, more so that the service will pioneer in Kenya. This being a purely data service and with the continued migration of communication towards data-supported platforms, the Internet-enabled balloons will be able to offer connectivity to the many Kenyans who live in remote regions that are underserved or totally unserved, and as such remain disadvantaged

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Mugo Kibati – Telkom Kenya’s Chief Executive Officer

Initially, Telkom Kenya subscribers will be able to access 4G internet from these balloons in a region spanning 50 000 sq kilometres. At some point in the future there will be 35 solar-powered balloons hovering over Kenya providing internet connection to users.

What speeds can customers expect?

From the test data, it seems the internet balloons will be quick enough for most use cases with speeds of 18.9 Mbps download and 4.7 Mbps upload respectively.

When can users expect to start using the service? Well, that’s not explicit yet but from the reporting it seems government sign-off has been obtained and what’s left is the actual roll-out

In light of the spread of COVID-19, Telkom and Loon are working as fast as we can to realise service deployment. This will also enable us support the Kenyan Government’s efforts to manage the current crisis in the short-term, and to establish sustainable operations to serve communities in Kenya in the long-term.


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