Loon, a balloon-powered Internet firm run by Google has announced the installation of a new set of ground stations in Nyeri, it’s third town after Nairobi and Nakuru in a move aimed at seeing it deploy the service commercially in Kenya in partnership with Telkom Kenya.
Loon started working with Telkom Kenya more than one year ago. The arrangement between the two corporations targets to offer 4G internet services to remote areas, but instead of using physical towers that may be expensive to install, Loon uses high-flying balloons that beam internet signals to those areas.
Ground stations are strategically located to support balloon access to an Internet connection. They are located in places that already have access to Internet and data services.
Loon works by beaming an Internet signal from these ground stations to a balloon 20km overhead. That signal can then travel across multiple balloons and long distances, allowing Loon to provide service far from where the ground station is located. In this way, Loon can reach underserved areas that have little or no connectivity.
According to company, the base station in Nyeri will augment the testing process of Loon’s balloons. It is also worth noting that the testing process will start any time before June 2019.
Loon will extend 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities. The balloons act as floating cell towers, transmitting a provider’s service – in this case Telkom’s service – directly to a subscriber’s existing 4G/LTE phone below. Loon’s equipment is powered by on-board solar panels, eliminating reliance on power infrastructure that is often lacking in rural or remote areas. The lack of such power infrastructure can be an impediment to setting up ground-based towers in such areas.
Loon and Telkom are working to enable more Kenyans to access the Internet via their mobile phones. With this new technology, Kenya will be a pioneer in extending the Internet to people who are not able to get reliable connections.
The Communications Authority of Kenya approved Project Loon a couple of months ago. Loon is also working with other government bodies to obtain additional approvals before it goes live for the masses.