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Google's project loon and Telkom Kenya 4G project sends more balloons to Kenya

By Chebet Birir | April 22nd 2020

Google’s internet air-balloon service Loon has dispatched a larger fleet of balloons to Kenya after successful launches from the launch site in Puerto Rico this week.

According to a tweet by Telcom Kenya, these balloons will join the eight balloons that are already active and part of a network integration exercise in Kenyan airspace. Upon arrival, this larger fleet of balloons will continue network integration testing with its local partner, Telkom Kenya, in preparation to begin serving users as quickly as possible. The recently launched balloons are expected to gradually begin arriving above Kenya, in the coming few weeks.

“The Loon service will seek to use its 4G/LTE Internet solution to connect unserved and under-served communities in Kenya. Initial coverage areas have already been identified, starting with Nairobi, Machakos, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kitui, Nanyuki, Narok and into Kisii,” part of the tweet reads.

Landing paths are designed to avoid established commercial aircraft flight routes, and transit time through the altitudes where other aircraft might operate is very limited. Additionally, Loon’s flight engineers are in communication with local air traffic control to ensure real-time coordination.

 Flying at a height of roughly 65,000 feet in the Earth’s stratosphere, the balloons navigate on air currents to make their way to their target destination through a circuitous route, which is determined by Loon’s automated navigation software. 

Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth in a statement said that the company is excited to be sending additional balloons to Kenya for further testing with Telkom.

“We look forward to beginning to provide service in the near future. We’re very grateful for the support of the government and all Kenyans as we work to bring balloon powered Internet to Kenya as quickly as possible,” he added.

Upon arrival in Kenya, the balloons maintain a relatively stable position over the target coverage area. They also move up and down in the stratosphere to catch different air currents, taking short trips in a fixed geographic area to provide 24-hour internet coverage to customers on the ground. 

The first balloon arrived in the country’s airspace on April 2, a week after the operators were cleared by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

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