Loon, a sister company of Google, will test the balloons with which the company wants to offer mobile internet in Kenya in the coming weeks. It is the first time the internet balloons have undergone a commercial test.
The balloons of Loon must, after agreement by the Kenyan authorities, float for Telkom Kenya, the third largest mobile provider in the East African country.
The test allows residents of mountainous areas to purchase access to the 4G network. The internet signal is delivered via the balloons that float at a height of 20 kilometers. The balloons are equipped with solar panels and a battery to also provide internet access at night.
The commercial test must show whether the balloons can be used in practice as a worthy alternative to telecom masts. One risk is that the balloons are blown off course due to strong wind. In addition, the balloons must be replaced every five months due to wear.
Google’s parent company focuses on experiments
Loon became an independent company in July 2018, after it was started in 2011 as part of X, a division of experimental projects that then still fell under Google. More than two hundred people now work at Loon.
With the experimental projects, parent company Alphabet is looking for other ways to make money than from advertising revenues via Google. In addition to Loon, the tech giant also focuses on self-driving cars through the Waymo company and the computer glasses with the name Google Glass.