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Digital Inclusion

Project Loon Seeks Operator Partners in Kenya

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Google's Project Loon, which aims to deliver wireless Internet connectivity to rural areas using a network of stratospheric balloons, is seeking telecom operator partners in Kenya.

The project, which is run by Google's X unit, needs partners that operate ground stations, which can then transmit a high-capacity wireless data signal to the nearest balloon, which then relays that signal to other balloons in the Loon network.

Google has 10 balloons, which float at very high altitudes, ready to deploy in Kenya and needs a local partner: So far it seems Telkom Kenya has held talks with the project but nothing has been concluded.

Kenya's government is Keen on Google's plans, according to a report in Business Daily. "It is companies such as X that innovate and provide solutions that benefit our city. We welcome the use of high-altitude balloons to create an aerial wireless network that offers real benefits to consumers," stated Sammy Itemere, principal secretary in the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT).

Project Loon has been underway since 2013 and is set to continue its R&D work for some years yet. (See Oh, the Huge Manatee! Google's US Loon Tests Renewed Into 2020, Google Ready to Release Thousands of Loons and Broadband: It's All Hot Air for Google.)

At AfricaCom 2017, Alistair Westgarth, Head of Project Loon, explained how the project's balloons had helped provide connectivity to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria last autumn and how a single balloon could provide connectivity to a city twice the size of Cape Town. (See AfricaCom Day Two: The Technology Paradox.)

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