Barely a week after Kenya approved Google’s Loon Internet Project, the first two balloons have arrived in the country’s airspace, in Ngomeni.
The balloons, dubbed HBA092 and HBAL125, will be joined by two others, expected to arrive in through Somalia from Seychelles.
According to space monitoring websites, StratoCat and Flightradar24, the internet balloons were launched in Puerto Rico in late January, where the balloon internet technology has successfully been deployed.
“These balloons will carry 4G base stations and have the capacity to provide wider signal coverage. This will, therefore, enable Kenya to retain her competitive advantage in ICT and innovation during the current crisis,” The Star quoted President Uhuru Kenyatta, speaking during the approval of the project.
The new technology seeks to provide faster internet connections, even to people in rural, seeing that the COVID-19 outbreak has sent most people working from home and students accessing e-learning materials.
Loon balloons work by beaming Internet connectivity from ground stations to an overhead balloon. The signal is thereafter sent across multiple balloons, creating a network of floating cell towers that deliver connectivity directly to a user’s LTE-enabled device below.
Loon is a project by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. It was launched in 2011 to bring connectivity to remote parts of the world by floating solar-powered networking gear over areas where cell towers would be too expensive to build. Loon has successfully been deployed in Peru and Puerto Rico, allowing cell networks to use balloons for free to supplant cell phone towers downed by natural disasters.