Loon’s balloon-powered internet service goes official in Kenya

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Loon has today launched its first commercial internet service in Kenya. The service will initially cover a region spanning nearly 50,000 sq.km, including the areas of Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, and Narok.

Telkom Kenya and Alphabet’s Loon division began the testing nearly two years ago with the high powered balloons expected to provide internet services to remote areas of the country where ordinary telecommunication infrastructure cannot reach.

The company said that as it gains more experience flying the ballons in Kenya, so will it dispatch more of the balloons to service other remote areas in the country. The only shortfall is that, being a solar-powered solution, customers will only get to experience mobile Internet service availability from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

As Loon gains more experience flying in Kenya, and dispatches more balloons to the service region, it is expected that service consistency will increase. In addition, with the Loon technology being a solar-powered solution, customers will get to experience mobile Internet service availability from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.  

Loon and Telkom have highlighted the need to work together limiting any potential service disruptions and improve the user’s experience.

The service has so far recorded an uplink speed of 4.74 mbps, a downlink speed of 18.9 mbps, and latency of 19 milliseconds (ms). The internet service has so far connected 35,000 unique internet users.

We could not be more excited to launch service in Kenya. This is the culmination of years of work and collaboration between Loon, Telkom, and the government. Without the support and engagement by various government agencies, today would not be possible. We are incredibly grateful to the many governmental stakeholders who helped usher in Africa’s first application of this innovative technology.

Loon’s Chief Executive Officer, Alastair WESTGARTH

Critics have however been quick to point out that the internet infrastructure is not going to serve the intended areas – remote villages of the country – owing to the fact that it has been launch in major towns with relatively strong and high internet penetration and coverage.