Alphabet’s Loon has launched the first large-scale balloon-based Internet service. This is the first commercial implementation of the project that has been underway for a long time. The first country to receive this service is Kenya, and Alphabet has partnered with Telkom Kenya to achieve this goal. Balloon-based services provide the Internet for more than 50,000 square kilometers in western and central Kenya. In addition, it plans to expand its business scope to the provinces of Mozambique.
Alastair Westgarth, CEO of Loon, described in his blog this large-scale balloon-based Internet project undertaken by Loon, which aims to provide global Internet connectivity in areas that currently have “no Internet white spots”. The deployment in Kenya makes this the first non-emergency use of the Loon service to provide connectivity on a large scale. It is also the first Internet service powered by balloons in Africa. “Balloons” are sent to the stratosphere and are moved and repositioned using advanced machine learning algorithms, and provide Internet coverage for the following areas.
During the field test of the project, Loon’s team noticed that the download speed was 18.9Mbps, the upload speed was 4.74Mpbs, and the delay was 19ms. Then, the team tested the service using multiple applications such as YouTube, email, WhatsApp, web browsing, and voice calls and video calls.
Loon’s initial plan to use balloon-style Internet services covers 50,000 square kilometers of Kenya, including Iten, Baringo, Eldoret, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru, Kisii, Kericho, Bomet and Narok. To this end, it will use 35 or more aircraft or “balloons”, which will continue to travel over East Africa.
As early as May last year, this technology was used to provide LTE connectivity in Peru during the 8.0 magnitude earthquake. Moreover, Loon plans to expand the project to the provinces of Capo Delgado and Niassa in Mozambique.
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