4G internet balloons take off over Kenya

Joanna Estrada
July 7, 2020

Alphabet began testing the service in March and has already seen internet speeds that support voice and video calls, WhatsApp, email, texting and web browsing, Mr Westgarth said.

One field test of the service showed download speeds of 18.9Mbps (megabits per second) and upload speeds of 4.7Mbps.

Previously balloons from Loon have been used during an natural disaster in Peru.

The path followed by Alphabet's balloons as they provide service to the target area in Kenya.

The balloons' 4G internet service has been tested with 35,000 customers and will initially cover a region spanning 50,000 sq km (31,000 sq miles).

The project, which uses high-flying balloons to beam 4G signals to underserved and remote areas where ordinary telco infrastructure can not be set up, has been tested over an extended period, and we have a great coverage about its developments, including a nod from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

The companies note that this is an exciting milestone for Internet service provision in Africa and the world, more so that the service will pioneer in Kenya.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of this crisis has made online education, and other crucial interventions to the country such as Telemedicine as well as digitised and automated platforms to enable the consumer still access service, the new normal. This is the first large-scale commercial offering that makes use of Loon's high-altitude balloons, which essentially work as cell service towers that drift on currents in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Some of the technical details of how Loon's stratospheric balloons will offer this continuous service, and what kind of network quality people can expect include that the fleet includes around 35 balloons acting together which are moving constantly to maintain the target area coverage.

The Loon service has the capacity to connect targeted communities to emergency services, as well as ensure enhanced and alternative communication options during this time.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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