The Loon Project, owned by Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. and aimed at spreading internet access across remote areas through helium balloons, might see itself in Kenyan skies pretty soon. Launched way back in 2011, the Loon project was aimed at providing internet connectivity to remote areas with the help of equipment-laden helium balloons flying high above the clouds. The company will be having their first commercial trial in Kenya in the coming weeks.
Loon has teamed up with Telkom Kenya, with a common intent to provide 4G telecom service to mountain villagers at affordable prices. Telkom Kenya is the nation’s No. 3 carrier. The final approval would be signed this month by Kenya’s aviation regulator.
The project includes balloons which fly in the stratosphere equipped with solar powered cellular network gear. The idea is, that such an arrangement would thus eliminate the need for a permanent tower structure in places where installing them isn’t practical or economical.
The company has demonstrated the utility of the balloons in the past. Over last three years, Loon was successful in replacing cell phone towers in Peru and Puerto Rico, both of which were downed by natural disasters.
But the project comes in with its own flaws. Companies courted by the Loon believe that the project still needs to prove of it’s reliability and profitability for the carriers, reports Reuters. Hervé Suquet, chief technology and information officer for Orange Middle East and Africa, said Loon needs to prove itself in Kenya. He added saying they would be interested if the company proved itself in African country.
Alphabet’s balloon-based internet will rival companies with the likes of SpaceX’s Starlink network.