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Google’s Loon brings internet-by-balloon to Kenya

A network of giant balloons will soon bring internet access to remote regions of rural Kenya.
Google’s sister-company Loon has announced its first commercial deal: partnering with Telkom Kenya to deliver connectivity to the region.
The firm’s antennae-dangling fleet will ride the wind high above parts of the African country.
But experts have warned that the partnership could lead to a communications monopoly.
Originally known as Project Loon, the technology behind the internet balloons was developed under parent company Alphabet’s experimental division, X.
Earlier this month, the business “graduated” to become a fully fledged subsidiary in its own right: Loon. As part of its first commercial agreement, Loon has pledged to bring internet access to some of Kenya’s most inaccessible regions.
The specific terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
“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,” said Aldo Mareuse, chief executive of Telkom.
Loon’s balloons float high in the stratosphere, around 20km (12.4 miles) above sea level; a height the company says is out of range of air traffic, storms and wildlife.
The tennis-court-sized balloon is made from polyethylene, filled with helium and powered by a solar panel. The balloons are designed to stay aloft for months at a time, and move by surfing wind channels, predicting speeds and directions so that they can navigate in the direction they need to travel.
Each balloon carries an antenna, which relays internet signals transmitted from the ground, extending coverage over an area of 5,000sq km.
In the case of this new partnership, Telkom Kenya will be providing the internet signals, and Loon will spread it over remote areas of Kenya.
At the mercy of Alphabet
“Connectivity in these rural locations is a big problem,” said Ken Banks, an expert in African connectivity, and head of social impact at Yoti.

Source: BBC

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