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It’s lift-off for Telkom Kenya, Loon balloon service

Kenya , 08 Jul 2020

Following months of preparation, Telkom Kenya and Google’s Loon Project have announced the rollout of internet connectivity service.

A Project Loon balloon being launched.
A Project Loon balloon being launched.

To date over 35 balloons have been deployed to provide mobile internet connection on a 50,000 square kilometre range covering several regions including Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, and Narok.

Telkom Kenya CEO Mugo Kibati said: “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 under-served or totally unserved, and as such remain disadvantaged.”

Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth thanked the Kenyan government for fast-tracking the launch of the service.

In March 2020, the government gave Loon the go-ahead to launch balloons in the Kenyan airspace. This was to ensure that locals living in remote towns receive internet connectivity amid the impact of COVID-19.

According to Telkom Kenya, it registered an uplink speed of 4.74 Mbps, a downlink speed of 18.9 Mbps, and latency of 19 milliseconds (ms). The speed was tested on services such as WhatsApp, video calls, and YouTube.

Since it is powered by solar, the availability of the internet connection will be between 6am and 9pm in the served areas.

Loon warned that the wind patterns can result in intermittent service availability. The company has said that it is utilising machine learning algorithms to keep the balloons in the appropriate airspaces.

“Loon and Telkom are working together to limit any potential service disruptions and improve the user’s experience. As Loon gains more experience flying in Kenya and dispatches more balloons to the service region, it is expected that service consistency will increase,” Loon said.

The mobile internet service from the Loon Balloons will be available through Telkom Kenya’s network.

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