Alphabet to deploy balloon Internet in Kenya with Telkom in 2019

Loon's first commercial internet balloon deal is in Kenya

"We will work very hard with Loon, to deliver the first commercial mobile service, as quickly as possible, using Loon's balloon-powered Internet in Africa", said Aldo Mareuse, Telkom's CEO.

The technology involved uses high-altitude balloons that operate as inflatable cell towers.

Google parent Alphabet is to launch internet balloons in Kenya, to provide coverage in rural and remote areas.

Loon's balloons will float 60,000 feet (18 km) above sea level, much higher than any passenger plane, which fly at only 30,000 feet (9 km).

This being 2018, the balloons exclusively offer 4G LTE access, although Loon is looking at adding 5G support in the future.

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Loon-enabled internet service will be provided to portions of central Kenya starting next year, according to Loon chief executive Alastair Westgarth who said the company's goal was to "connect people everywhere". Loon's equipment is powered by on-board solar panels.

Founded in 2013 as Project Loon, Google developed the technology at its "X" innovation labs.

However, some critics have suggested the partnership will lead to a monopoly in Kenya, dominating the internet market and warning those most affected will be the consumers. Kenya's telecommunications operator, Telkom Kenya and Loon, announced the signing of a definitive agreement to pilot the innovative new 4G/LTE access network service in Kenya.

This'll be the project's first deal in Africa, Reuters reports, and it'll see Loon working with Telkom Kenya to get high-speed internet to the East African country's rural and suburban populations.

"This would perhaps be less of a problem if there's more than one provider - you can simply switch network - but if Loon and Telkom have monopolies in these areas, that could be a ticking time bomb".

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