Kenya’s third mobile phone 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 access network service in Kenya.
The pilot project will focus on central Kenya, which the operator stated is a challenging area to cover due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain. Telkom Kenya and Loon will determine precise coverage areas in the coming months, though their decisions will require ratification by regulators.
“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 said in a statement.
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 below. Loon’s equipment is powered by on-board solar panels.
Telkom Kenya’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Aldo Mareuse said it will work hard with Loon to swiftly “deliver the first commercial mobile service” using the balloon system. “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.”