President Uhuru Kenyatta Monday announced the approval of Google Loon Services in Kenya to enable universal 4G data coverage in the country.
He said the approval was in line with Government’s measures to respond to the disruptions caused by the global Coronavirus pandemic that has seen many people work from home to avoid contracting the respiratory illness.
“In that regard, and to foster communication and enable Kenyans to retain and enhance remote access to the Offices and Enterprises, my administration has granted approvals that will ensure universal 4G Data Coverage throughout Kenya,” said the President when he briefed the press at State House Nairobi.
He announced that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has signed an agreement with Google Loon that allows Loon Balloons to fly over Kenyan airspace.
These balloons, which will hover well above our commercial airspace, carry 4G base stations and have the capacity to provide wider signal coverage.
The President said the new development will enable Kenya to retain her competitive advantages in ICT and innovation in the midst of the current crisis; while at the same time laying the foundation for greater expansion once the current health challenge is contained.
The President said Telkom Kenya and Google have been testing the 4G data network and will roll out the commercial service as soon as the balloons are available in the Kenyan airspace.
“Once inaugurated, this service will extend Telkom Kenya’s 4G network to areas that currently are not covered by any of our mobile network providers,” the President said.
The service will also boost online learning as it will allow teachers and students to access education materials remotely.
While citing the recently set up telemedicine centre for Coronavirus detection at Kenyatta National Hospital, the President said Kenyans should be proud of their country’s pole position in technology and innovations.
What is Loon
Loon is a network of balloons travelling on the edge of space, delivering connectivity to people in unserved and underserved communities around the world.
It has taken the most essential components of a cell tower and redesigned them to be light and durable enough to be carried by a balloon 20 km up, on the edge of space.
Loon balloons are designed and manufactured to endure the harsh conditions in the stratosphere, where winds can blow over 100 km/hr, and temperatures can drop as low as -90° C.
Loon in partnership with Telkom will pilot an innovative new 4G/LTE access network service in Kenya. This will be Loon’s first commercial service in Africa.
The Loon service is an innovative approach to providing extended 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities, using high altitude balloons operating 20 kilometres (60,000 feet) above sea level, well above air traffic, wildlife, and weather events.
The balloons act as floating cell towers, transmitting a provider’s service – in this case, Telkom’s service – directly to a subscriber’s existing 4G/LTE phone below. Loon’s equipment is powered by onboard solar panels.
Loon has flown over 30 million km of test flights to date since the project began – with one of the balloons breaking a record by surviving for 198 days aloft in the stratosphere.
The company simulates 30 million kilometres of potential navigation daily to better understand how jet streams and weather patterns will impact balloon routes.
How It Works
High-speed internet is transmitted up to the nearest balloon from the telecommunications partner (in this case, Telkom) on the ground, relayed across the balloon network, and then back down to users on the ground.
Loon has demonstrated data transmission between balloons over 100 km apart in the stratosphere and back down to people on the ground with connection speeds of up to 10 Mbps, directly to their LTE phones.