Uhuru launches internet balloons, urges Kenyans to utilise 4G network
President Uhuru Kenyatta has virtually launched the Loon internet balloons that will see mobile phone users in 14 counties access 4G network.
This is after Telkom Kenya entered partnership with Google parent firm Alphabet at an undisclosed amount in the first ever commercial deployment of loon internet balloons in the world.
Speaking during the launch at Radat Centre in Baringo County, Uhuru who addressed locals via live WhatsApp video chat asked them to take advantage of the improved telecommunication infrastructure to advance their social economic activities.
"You now have a faster internet network. You can now sell your honey to the rest of the world. Take full advantage of it," Uhuru said.
ICT CS Joe Mucheru named the launch historic, adding that in technology matters Kenya continues to lead the globe.
Last year, Alphabet Inc. Loon announced it will use its high-speed Internet balloon network to reach rural and rural communities in suburban areas with Telkom Kenya to mark Africa's first commercial partnership.
Alphabet's X, the company's testing unit, created the site named Project Loon. He also joined Loon, a Google parent company's Alphabet division.
High speed, internet balloons developed by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have finally been approved for use in Kenya, after president Uhuru Kenyatta fast-tracked regulatory approval to boost communications capabilities to help fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The ambitious project, a joint venture between Alphabet’s Loon and the country’s third-biggest telecoms operator, Telkom Kenya, planned to use giant balloons to beam 4G data services to remote parts of the country but had been held up for almost two years pending approvals from the aviation authority and the Ministry of Transport.
On Monday, Mr Kenyatta said those approvals had been granted as part of a “raft of measures to mitigate the disruptions to our life arising from the pandemic”. Cases of the coronavirus in Africa have so far lagged behind many other parts of the world, but experts fear that fragile healthcare systems and crowded informal settlements in countries like Kenya could be overrun if the disease spreads. Kenya has so far recorded 15 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to the Health Ministry.
U.S. telephone providers were using this system to link over 250,000 citizens in Puerto Rico during last year's hurricane.
The Loon operation serves areas with lower levels utilizing ballons powered by an on-board solar panel through fourth generation ( 4 G).
Loon claimed that they travel 60,000 feet higher than air transport, wildlife and environmental practices.
The main cities and towns in Kenya are served by provider networks of more than 45 million residents, but large areas of the countryside are not included.
In an arrangement signed between the Civil Aviation Authority of Kenya (CAC) and Google Loon, loon balls will travel over Kenya's airspace.
They are fitted with 4 G base stations and have the ability to provide broader signal coverage, which hover well over Kenya 's commercial air space.
Loon 's solution functions through a 20 km overhead balloon connectivity connection between these ground stations. This ensures a network of floating cell towers may be sent the signal directly to an LTE-enabled smartphone from the following node using several ballons.
Regulatory authorisations allow Loon to host the spectrum of Telkom on its stratosphere rockets, to use millimetre-wave spectrum to deliver communications from the ground to overhead balloons and to import and build the land infrastructure.
In cooperation with the States of Peru and Puerto Rico, the Loon program was used in the event of emergencies. The lessons learned from these two tasks would be essential to address some of the connectivity challenges of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
The balloons will be shipped from Loon's sites in the United States, the Telkom contact says, and in the next few weeks, they hopefully arrive in the region.
After the globes arrive in Kenya, the final phases of network integration testing needed to begin servicing the Kenyans will be performed by Loon and Telkom. "Thanks to the COVID-19 virus situation and the need to improve the link, Loon and Telkom are running as quickly as possible, despite the vulnerabilities of the global pandemic," he said.
In the wider central region, more mountainous and rural regions, first coverage regions have only been established, making it a problem for service connectivity and disponibility.
Then Telkom and Loon will work to accelerate service deployement to support efforts by the
Government of Kenya whioch has gradually spread to other fields when dealing with and managing COVID-19. Loon Service would also operate to provide improved alternate contact options for loved one, either in isolation or in quarantine for selected emergency communities.
Loon 's CEO Alastair Westgarth said Loon and Telkom work together with government authorities to offer Loon 's service to Kenya lkom to bring Africa into the first ever use of this innovative solution, to connect unconnected and underrelated communities, in close collaboration with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, and others.
We are grateful for their support, cooperation and innovative approach to connectivity expansion, "said Westgarth.
A robust lessons plan for students in their homes has also been established by the government for secure entry.
The partnership between Google Loon and Telkom Kenya should allow students to continue learning through access to soft copy education materials and jobs when schools are shut down due to the corona viral pandemic
Internet experts in the world have supported the push to achieve universal access
Alex Gakuru, the Executive Director of Code IP Trust says the move will see all corners of the country connected to faster internet and heralds a new way of doing business. “We have for long talked about the universal access, the Google-Telkom initiative will distribute internet equally across the country enabling businesses and supporting internet based learning even in remotest parts of the country,” he says.