Telkom Kenya to deploy Google’s 4G/LTE Internet Balloons in Kenya
By Rolex Owino
Kenya’s third mobile phone subscriber in terms of market share, Telkom Kenya and Google affiliate Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet – have announced the signing of a definitive agreement to pilot an innovative new 4G/LTE (Long Term Evolution) access network service in Kenya.
The pilot will take place within the general area of central Kenya, some of which has been difficult to service – due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain. The exact coverage areas will be determined in the coming months, and subject to the requisite regulatory approvals.
Telkom and Loon will also work closely together over the coming months to prepare for the deployment of the service, which is expected in 2019.
“This partnership demonstrates the Board’s commitment to guide and oversee the transformation of Telkom into a business with a reputation for innovation, with respect to its product and service offering. This partnership with Loon is also true testament of our resolve to deploy pioneer technologies due to their potential impact to our customers,” Telkom Kenya’s Board Chair, Mr. Eddy Njoroge notes.
Telkom Kenya’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Aldo Mareuse, noted, “Telkom is focused on bringing innovative products and solutions to the Kenyan market. With this association with Loon, we will be partnering with a pioneer in the use of high altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya. 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.”
The Loon service is an innovative approach to providing extended 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities, using high altitude balloons operating 20 kilometres (60,000 feet) above sea level, well above air traffic, wildlife, and weather events. The balloons act as floating cell towers, transmitting a provider’s service – in this case Telkom’s service – directly to a subscriber’s existing 4G/LTE phone. Loon’s equipment is powered by on-board solar panels.
Loon Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Alastair Westgarth, states: “We are extremely excited to partner with Telkom for our first engagement in Africa. Their innovative approach to serving their customers makes this collaboration an excellent fit. Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies. We couldn’t be more pleased to start in Kenya.”
Mr. Mareuse, the Telkom CEO, adds: “This collaboration represents another important step towards Telkom’s continued quest to provide high-quality, reliable and affordable data offerings to our customers.”
Source: African Strategic-Ventures (ASV) & The Exchange.