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Alphabet's Loon gets regulatory nod in Uganda

Uganda , 12 Dec 2019

Alphabet's Loon gets regulatory nod in Uganda

The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has approved Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Loon LLC's planned deployment of balloons to provide internet access in that country.

The balloons are designed to facilitate more widespread access to telecommunications (voice and data) and 4G/LTE, especially for users in remote regions that are not served mobile networks.

Loon LLC's sojourn in Uganda began late August 2018 when the company initiated discussions with officials to deploy its solutions.

In December 2019 Uganda's Minister of State for Public Works and Transport, Aggrey Bagiire, said Loon is allowed to fly its balloons over Uganda's airspace safely, in addition to orderly descent and landing.

"Loon LLC has been approved by ICAO as being in compliance with the standards and recommended practices of international aviation. ICAO's approval was confirmed at the 39th ICAO General Assembly in Montreal in 2016," Bagiire said.

He added that prior to granting the approval, several successful flight tests were conducted in Ugandan airspace, in accordance with the provisions of Annex 2 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Loon LLC confirmed it would not deploy its balloons immediately in Uganda.

Anna Prouse, Government Relations/Policy Lead at Loon LLC, said the company is still gathering data especially "on the wind to better know how to navigate the Ugandan skies to be more effective at the time of trade agreements".

The Loon project began in 2013 as Alphabet's commitment to tackling the challenge of extending internet access to unconnected communities worldwide.

In July 2019, Loon LLC announced that its balloons have flown over 1 million hours in Earth's stratosphere.

While the project is yet to take off in Uganda, it is already in operation in neighboring Kenya.

In July 2018, ITWeb Africa reported that Telkom Kenya became the first operator to sign on to the Loon project.

In February 2019, ITWeb Africa also reported that the coverage of the project has been broadened in Kenya with the addition of more remote areas and the installation of a new ground station in Nyeri.

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