UPDATE As previously reported in Inside Towers, internet users in Kenya will soon be able to connect up to floating cell towers, courtesy of Loon. The project has been delayed by the pandemic, but is now ready to move ahead and planned for deployment before the end of the month, according to NetworkWorld.com. During their testing phase, Loon was able to provide a downlink speed of 18.9 Mbps with 19 milliseconds latency and an uplink speed of 4.74 mbps for the 4G LTE service.
The landscape of Kenya makes traditional broadband service a difficult proposition leaving much of the country with inadequate connectivity. “The internet-enabled balloons will be able to offer connectivity to the many Kenyans who live in remote regions that are underserved or totally unserved, and as such remain disadvantaged,” stated Telkom Kenya CEO, Mugo Kibati. Educational and telehealth service are expected to be early beneficiaries of the new connections.
Loon CEO Alistair Westgarth described the balloon delivery system as “…a floating network of cell towers.” There will be at least 35 balloons dotting the stratosphere, each drifting about twelves miles above the earth. Westgarth said the service is capable of hosting “voice calls, video calls, YouTube, WhatsApp, email, texting, web browsing.” Additional balloons can be deployed far more quickly than ground based cell towers, and can be moved easily to address the changing needs of the people below.