President Kenyatta has announced that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and Google Loon have signed an agreement to allow Loon’s balloons to fly over Kenya’s airspace to enhance 4G data health coverage. The agreement is aimed at fostering communication and enabling Kenyans to retain and enhance remote access to their offices and enterprises during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“My administration has granted approval that will ensure universal 4G data coverage is available throughout our country, I am pleased to announce that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has signed an agreement with Google Loon in order to allow Loon balloons to fly over Kenyan airspace,” President Kenyatta announced.
The balloons will hover above Kenya’s commercial airspace carrying 4G base stations that have the capacity to provide wider signal coverage to all parts of the country. The President said the intervention will enable Kenya to retain her competitive advantage in ICT and innovation in the midst of the current coronavirus crisis while at the same time laying foundations for greater expansion once the health challenge is contained
The internet program was originally known as Project Loon, a partnership that the Google’s sister-company Loon and Telkom Kenya struck way back in 2018 and have been testing its viability with not so much being done since they signed the deal. Two years later, it has taken a pandemic for a project that had been halted because of the pending regulatory approvals to be given a go-ahead. Suddenly Kenya realizes the importance of an internet project that would have been implemented a long time ago. Kenyatta has now given a green light to the two companies to start the commercial rollout of 4G data networks in the country.
“Once inaugurated, this service will extend Telkom Kenya’s 4G network to areas that are not covered by any of our mobile network providers. Therefore, all Kenyans, wherever they are in the country, will enjoy access to high speed and affordable internet services,” President Kenyatta said.
“I know the gesture by Google Loon and Telkom to offer their 4G to support our efforts in surveillance and management of coronavirus infections and this will go a long way to containing the present health challenge,” he added.
Loon’s balloons are made of polyethylene, filled with helium and powered by a solar panel during the day while charging an onboard battery to allow for nighttime operations. These balloons are able to fly up in the stratosphere 20 km above sea level hence do not interfere with the air traffic and wildlife. According to the company, each balloon carries an antenna, which relays internet signals transmitted from the ground, extending coverage over an area of 5,000sq KM. The balloons are designed and manufactured to endure the harsh conditions for over 100 days in the stratosphere, where winds can blow over 100 km/hr, and temperatures can drop as low as -90° C before landing back on Earth in a controlled descent.