IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Google's Loon project delivers internet to Kenya - via balloon

However, critics have suggested it could cause a telecoms monopoly and result in lack of choice for consumers

Project loon balloon

Google's Loon internet service that aims to deliver high-speed internet to rural areas has signed its first commercial agreement, partnering with Kenya's Telkom network.

The connection will be delivered by high altitude balloons that float 20km above sea level. They're designed to deliver internet connectivity to low density populations, where it's just not financially viable to install traditional underground cabling and other permanent lines to properties.

The balloons are essentially floating cell towers, utilising a provider's 4G/LTE service to a user's existing device. They're powered by solar panels, so can just float continuously and will rarely need to be taken out of service.

"We are extremely excited to partner with Telkom for our first engagement in Africa," said Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth. "Their innovative approach to serving their customers makes this collaboration an excellent fit. Loon's mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies. We couldn't be more pleased to start in Kenya."

However, some critics have suggested the partnership will lead to a monopoly in Kenya, dominating the internet market and warning those most affected will be the consumers.

"Once these networks are in place, and dependency has reached a critical level, users are at the mercy of changes in business strategy, pricing, terms and conditions and so on," Ken Banks, an expert in African connectivity, and head of social impact at Yoti told the BBC.

"This would perhaps be less of a problem if there's more than one provider - you can simply switch network - but if Loon and Telkom have monopolies in these areas, that could be a ticking time bomb."

Loon and Telkom plan to launch the internet service next year (although this is subject to regulatory approval) and Telkom's boss Aldo Mareuse explained the telecoms business is committed to rolling out the service as quickly as possible.

"Telkom is focused on bringing innovative products and solutions to the Kenyan market," he said. "With this association with Loon, we will be partnering with a pioneer in the use of high altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya. We will work very hard with Loon, to deliver the first commercial mobile service, as quickly as possible, using Loon's balloon-powered Internet in Africa."

Featured Resources

The 3D skills report

Add 3D skills to your creative toolkits and play a sizeable role in the digital future

Free Download

The increasing need for environmental intelligence solutions

How sustainability has become a major business priority and is continuing to grow in importance

Free Download

2022 State of the multi-cloud report

What are the biggest multi-cloud motivations for decision-makers, and what are the leading challenges

Free Download

Solve global challenges with machine learning

Tackling our word's hardest problems with ML

Free Download

Recommended

Google to cut global workforce by 12,000 roles
Careers & training

Google to cut global workforce by 12,000 roles

20 Jan 2023
Google Ads malvertising campaign prompts questions around Search security
malware

Google Ads malvertising campaign prompts questions around Search security

18 Jan 2023
Microsoft pins hopes on ChatGPT to supercharge Bing search engine
artificial intelligence (AI)

Microsoft pins hopes on ChatGPT to supercharge Bing search engine

4 Jan 2023
Gmail vs Outlook: Which one is better for business?
email providers

Gmail vs Outlook: Which one is better for business?

23 Dec 2022

Most Popular

Windows 10 users locked out of devices by unskippable Microsoft 365 advert
bugs

Windows 10 users locked out of devices by unskippable Microsoft 365 advert

3 Feb 2023
Why energy efficient technology is key to a sustainable business
Sponsored

Why energy efficient technology is key to a sustainable business

16 Jan 2023
What's powering Britain’s fibre broadband boom?
Network & Internet

What's powering Britain’s fibre broadband boom?

3 Feb 2023