Telkom Kenya and Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet, have announced the signing of a definitive agreement to pilot a new 4G LTE access network service in Kenya. This will be Loon’s first commercial service in Africa, with deployment expected to begin in 2019. The Loon service will provide extended 4G LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities, using high altitude balloons operating 20km above sea level. The balloons act as floating cell towers, transmitting a provider’s service directly to a subscriber’s existing LTE handset below. Loon’s equipment is powered by on-board solar panels. 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 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,’ commented Telkom Kenya’s CEO Aldo Mareuse, adding: ‘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.’ Telkom Kenya is 60%-owned by Helios Investment Partners, with the remainder held by the Kenyan government.