Project Loon heads to Kenya for first commercial trial
Project Loon, Silicon Valley giant Alphabet’s moonshot that involves using helium balloons to broadcast high powered connectivity in hard-to-reach places, has announced that it will launch its first commercial trial over the next few weeks in Kenya. The company is planning to partner with Telkom Kenya, the country’s No. 3 carrier, to let mountain villagers buy 4G services at market rates. With final approval expected from Kenya’s aviation authority later this month, eyes are focused on the African nation to see how viable Project Loon really is.
Alphabet’s share price has appreciated by 7% over the last month
Source: Yahoo Finance
Loon began in 2011 with a clear mission: to connect parts of the world that are difficult for get online using traditional tech. Its solution is equally simple: using giant helium balloons to float solar-powered networking gear over areas where the creation of cell towers is cost-prohibitive. Loon’s tennis-court sized balloons have already proven themselves – the company let wireless carriers in Peru and Puerto Rico use them to provide internet access when natural disasters demolished local cell towers. But now they face a new challenge: will people who are currently underserved with connectivity be willing to pay for it?
Kenyan officials are hopeful – as well they should be, given the trend that we’ve seen for people to embrace the internet so far. There is no reason that people who haven’t had that chance so far should prove fundamentally different. That, certainly, is Loon’s opinion. According to CEO Alastair Westgarth, the company has recently tripled in size, and now employs more than 200 people. He also said the company had deals in the offing with “multiple” additional entities.
In a statement, Westgarth said: “With years of technical development, over 35 million kilometers flown, and hundreds of thousands of people connected, we have a big head start and are well positioned to connect a lot of people and seize the opportunities that come with it.”
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