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Google’s Project Loon partnership with Telkom Kenya approved by telecommunications regulator

by Felix Omondi
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The Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) has approved a partnership between Kenya-based telecommunication company Telkom Kenya and Project Loon. Project Loon is an initiative by Google to connected rural and remote areas underserved by telecommunication infrastructure to access the internet.

Project Loon uses high-flying hot air balloons to beam down the internet connection. Doing so from up in the sky, the network covers a wider ground that cannot be achieved from a conventional cell tower on the ground.

Following the approval by the CA for the partnership between Loon and Telkom Kenya, Loon has now embarked on laying down the ground infrastructure, and the first tests for the network is expected to start within the first half of 2019. Remote areas in Central Kenya will be the first to be served by the network on a pilot phase. Though geographically challenging locations will be served later.

How Telkom Kenya stands to gain

Like we said, for both companies, this partnership is a synergy powerhouse. For one, Telkom will be able to beam its 4G signals across a much wider geographical coverage than it could ever be possible with grounded cell towers.

Since Telkom Kenya launched the 4G network, its services have been limited mostly to urban areas. There is a little footprint of it outside urban and densely populated areas. With Project Loon, Telkom’s 4G could reach far and wide much faster and more affordably for the telecom.

To get a rough idea of just how affordable using Project Loon could be for Telkom Kenya, consider this fact. Using just seven balloons, Project Loon can beem internet connection across a geographical area spanning 1,000 km (621 miles). That is about the same distance as Busia on the western borders of Kenya to Mombasa in the eastern borders.

Telkom remains focuses on bringing innovative products and solutions to the Kenyan market. Our association with Loon will see us partner with a pioneer in the use of high-altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya,” said Telkom Kenya in a statement.

This collaboration represents another important step towards Telkom’s quest to provide high-quality, reliable and affordable data offerings to its customers and Kenyans in under-served locations across the country.”

Alastair Westgarth, the CEO of Project Loon added, “Together with Telkom Kenya, we have been working in close collaboration with the Kenya Communications Authority, Civil Aviation Authority, and others to secure the needed approvals to usher in Africa’s first-ever deployment of this innovative solution to connect unconnected and under-connected communities. We are grateful to these agencies for their support, collaboration, and innovative approach to expanding connectivity.”

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