Kenyan Information and Communications minister Joseph Mucheru slated bureaucracy for delaying the take-off of Alphabet’s Loon service, which is yet to begin operations some 18 months after agreeing a rural connectivity deal with Telkom Kenya, Financial Times (FT) reported.

Loon and Telkom Kenya agreed the deal in mid-2018 with the goal of launching commercial services during 2019. However, FT wrote the service is yet to get off the ground due to what Mucheru said was a sluggish response from the government around granting permits.

Telkom Kenya told the newspaper it is waiting for approval to fly the systems’ high-altitude balloons from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Transport. The operator explained the service is ready to roll, with ground stations already established, and it is working with authorities to gain the necessary approvals.

Mucheru said he still fully backs Loon, which aims to beam 4G connectivity to remote parts of the country and is seen as something of a poster-child for High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) technology.

Loon and SoftBank subsidiary HAPSMobile recently formed the HAPS Alliance to speed adoption of high-altitude network infrastructure, which received backing from major operators and vendors including Deutsche Telekom, China Telecom, Ericsson and Nokia.