Google through its R&D wing, X, is currently lobbying to get Kenya-based telecoms aboard the Project Loon. An initiative seeking to connect the underserved communities in rural and remote parts of Kenya to the internet.
Already, the search engine giant through X has been running the beta program in Kenya. The Project Loon internet access has been available in Marsabit, Nanyuki, Nakuru, and Nyeri on a pilot program. The project’s success has gotten Kenya’s Ministry of ICT applauding its impact.
“We welcome the use of high-altitude balloons to create an aerial wireless network that offers real benefits to consumers,” said Sammy Iternere, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of ICT.
The Project Loon balloons essentially work like repeaters. Basically buffering and extending the coverage of the ground-based cell towers and beaming the signal far and wide from high altitude. Thus expanding the coverage of a single cell tower, hundreds-fold. The balloons make it possible to cover a wide area and cost-effective way that can never be achieved by laying down the traditional telecom infrastructure such as fiber cables and cell towers.
While X is lobbying with local telecoms, only one, Telkom Kenya appears to be buying into the idea. Though Telkom Kenya is still considering the prospects of merging with Project Loon.
However, there are concerns about the safety of the initiative as some of the balloons have crashed in about 10 countries. Just recently, one of the balloons fell in central parts of Kenya is a town called Meru.