Uncertainty grip Telkom 4G expansion drive as Loon folds

Written By: Ronald Owili

PHOTO | Courtesy

Telkom has announced that its Loon technology pilot programme with Google to provide seemliness 4G network in remote areas of Kenya will come to an end on 1st March 2021.

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The news follows the decision by Alphabet, Google’s parent company to wind up Loon LLC which has been piloting the technology for 9 years in various countries.

“Telkom remains cognisant of the integral role our core terrestrial network plays in keeping our customers connected. We continue with our long-term terrestrial network expansion plan that is informed by our overall company strategy, which will see us scale up to 80% of our network to 4G, increase our network footprint across the country, and get more Kenyans online,” said Mugo Kibati, CEO Telkom Kenya.

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Launched in pomp and colour in July last year in Radat Baringo County, Telkom and Loon LLC expected 35 solar-powered internet balloons to connect at least 14 counties with high-speed internet.

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However, after seven months of trial in Kenya, the programme comes to an end worldwide while leaving a trail of crashes in four continents where it was being piloted.

Loon technology was being backed to help bridge the digital divide through the provision of 4G/LTE coverage using floating cell towers (balloons), in areas that were difficult to access and connect via terrestrial solutions, as well as in areas that were not commercially viable for service providers.

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“Loon would not have been possible without a community of innovators and risk-takers who were willing to take a chance on us and build something the world has never seen before. While we’re sad to share that Loon’s journey is coming to an end, we are grateful to the Telkom team for their vision and partnership,” said Alastair Westgarth, Loon LLC CEO.

Loon LLC is now embarking on ensuring the operations of the balloons which have been hovering on the Kenyan airspace are recovered and discarded safely.

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“Telkom believes in taking bold decisions. It was very exciting therefore, to partner with like-minded pioneers in the adoption and usage of innovative technologies such as Loon, with the aim of filling in the Internet access gaps in areas that were difficult to service. Their vision – to connect unconnected and under-connected communities by inventing and integrating audacious technologies – sat well with our mission, to provide the best value for a simpler life, efficient business and stronger communities,” Kibati added.

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