NAIROBI: The fruition of a project that has been a decade in the making, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, which is the parent company of Google, has launched a number of balloons which are already on their way to the skies over Kenya, where they will provide 4G internet access.
The solar-powered balloons launched from Puerto Rico and Nevada by Loon, a subsidiary of the same company that owns Google, are now on their way to Kenya, flying in the stratosphere at an altitude of around 20,000 meters.
In the wake of extensive tests, this is the first time that the balloons have been officially launched with a view to providing a commercial service in partnership with a local operator, Telkom Kenya.
Before they arrive over Kenya, the balloons will complete a journey of more than 11,000 km, flying on air currents and automatically guided by machine-learning algorithms, which take into account the drift of stratospheric winds and weather forecasts.
The first of the balloons to be launched headed south along the Brazilian coast before overflying the Cape of Good Hope and passing to the east of Madagascar.
Once they have arrived at their destination, the balloons are stabilised at a more or less constant altitude to enable them to provide coverage to a wide geographical area. When the entire fleet of balloons for the project has been deployed, Kenya will become Loon’s first customer.
The internet service is expected to be up and running within the next few weeks.
Loon’s stated goal is to make the internet accessible to all of the world’s population, including those who live in very remote areas.