AT&T has partnered with Loon, a division of Alphabet, to use high-altitude internet balloons to provide connectivity for disaster-stricken areas in more than 50 countries and regions. In this venture, similar to when the two companies paired up in 2017 following Hurricane Maria, Loon will provide the balloons, and AT&T will supply the cellular network.
According to a blog post announcing the partnership, Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said, “Under the partnership, we have successfully integrated the Loon system with AT&T’s network.” He added, “This is a big deal because this network integration will extend to AT&T’s partners around the world, meaning Loon will be able to provide service to a third-party mobile operator, assuming they have a standard international roaming relationship with AT&T.”
Implementing the program will take “significant prep work,” according to Westgarth. He noted it took about a month to get balloons in place and operational in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria because, “there was no previously existing service in the region.” However, if the partners can establish operations in a country, service can begin within a matter of days after a natural disaster.
Loon has already secured fly over approval in more than 50 countries, many in Africa. They also plans to launch a commercial internet service in Kenya and remote parts of the Peruvian Amazon.