Google’s affiliate company Loon has established ground stations in Nyeri for a new balloon-powered network which will bring mobile internet connection to remote areas in partnership with Telkom Kenya.
Loon now has ground stations in Nairobi, Nakuru and Nyeri counties.
The facilities will transmit internet signal to balloons overhead. The signal will then be transferred across the network and finally to individuals’ mobile phones, enabling mobile internet access for people in areas where traditional ground stations are not available.
“The Loon service is an innovative approach to providing extended 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities. The balloons act as floating cell towers, transmitting a provider’s service — in this case Telkom’s service — directly to a subscribers’ existing 4G/LTE phone below,” said Loon in a statement yesterday.
After completion of the establishment of ground stations, the partners will proceed to test the network before piloting it for commercial use. The testing is scheduled to start within the first half of this year.
Last year, the partners secured regulatory approvals from the Communications Authority (CA) and the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority to allow Loon host Telkom’s signal on the balloons, utilise millimetre wave technology necessary for sending connectivity from the ground to balloons as well as import and install ground infrastructure.
In Kenya, 91.99 percent of all internet users access the internet through their mobile phones, according to a 2019 report for by Hootsuite and We Are Social. These 39.86 million active mobile internet users represent 77 percent of the total population.
Telkom Kenya has been investing in its data connection. In January, it announced the injection Sh1 billion into the growth of its 3G and 4G network to improve voice and data connection for its customers.
The past investments could be bearing fruit as data from CA shows the firm is increasing its market share for mobile data subscription, registering a 7.7 percent market share in September 2018 compared to 7.2 percent in June 2018.