Many of the inhabitants of a huge 50,000 square kilometer region in the interior of Kenya can already enjoy services —in that unreachable area but so common in other areas of the world— like video calls and watching videos online. To achieve this, a telecommunications company in the African country has revealed that, together with Alphabet, Google’s umbrella company, hot air balloons that will serve those areas are already flying over the country’s skies, after successfully passing tests last month.
This Tuesday, a statement set of the two companies, Telkom and Loon (Alphabet’s project for Internet access in remote areas) details that in the tests of this balloon Internet a sending speed of 4.74 megabits per second was reached, one of download 18.9 and a latency (network delay) of 19 milliseconds. The project contemplates the use of at least 35 balloons, a number that may increase as technology is consolidated in the area.
The balloons were launched from various locations in the United States and were then remotely directed to Kenya using air currents. They float in the atmosphere at about 20,000 meters high, and will move if necessary to offer better coverage.
The president of the country, Uhuru Kenyatta, held a five-minute video call with residents of the city of Radad, in Baringo County, on Thursday to inaugurate the service, according to the newspaper The Standard. Kenyatta stressed that the town will be able to take advantage of the technology to market its products, including honey, and has asked one of its interlocutors to buy their honey and send it to their official residence in Nairobi. A young man from the area, Dedan Kimosop, celebrated the arrival of 4G in his area. “Our young students will now have access to teaching materials in these times when the covid-19 pandemic has forced them to stay home,” he told the Kenyan newspaper.
It is the first time, according to the statement, that this technology has been deployed in Africa, and also the first time it has been deployed for commercial purposes. The balloons have offered connection in areas devastated by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, which damaged the conventional telephone network. Last year, Loon signed an agreement with Telefonica to give access to remote areas of the Peruvian Amazon.
Last March, the President of Kenya he delivered a speechor to present the project. According to CNN, citing a report by the organization Alliance for Affordable Internet, only 28% of the 1.3 billion Africans have access to the Internet.