Telkom Kenya to use Google’s balloons to expand 4G coverage to rural areas




Telkom and Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet, have announced a deal to pilot a new 4G/LTE access network
service in Kenya. This will be Loon’s first commercial service in Africa.

Telkom Kenya’s chairman, Eddy Njoroge, states: “This partnership demonstrates the Board’s commitment to guide and oversee the transformation of Telkom into a business with a reputation for innovation, with respect to its product and service offering. This partnership with Loon is also true testament of our resolve to deploy pioneer technologies due to their potential impact to our customers.”

Telkom Kenya’s CEO, Aldo Mareuse, states: “Telkom is focused on bringing innovative products and solutions to the Kenyan market. With this association with Loon, we will be partnering with a pioneer in the use of high altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas 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,” says Mareuse, adding that this will further enhance Telkom’s network to its customers.

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 on-board solar panels.

The animation below explains how Loon works.

Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth, states: “We are extremely excited to partner with Telkom for our first engagement in Africa. Their innovative approach to serving their customers makes this collaboration an excellent fit. Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies. We couldn’t be more pleased to start in Kenya.”

Mareuse, the Telkom CEO, adds: “This collaboration represents another important step towards Telkom’s continued quest to provide high-quality, reliable and affordable data offerings to our customers.”

The pilot will take place within the general area of central Kenya, some of which has been difficult to service, due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain. The exact coverage areas will be determined in the coming months, and subject to the requisite regulatory approvals.

Telkom and Loon will also work closely together over the coming months to prepare for the deployment of the service, which is expected in 2019.

Loon recently graduated from X, becoming an independent business within Alphabet (which owns Google) while Telkom Kenya’s 4G network has been live for over a year now.




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