Alphabet’s Loon plotted its first trial in Kenya in collaboration with Telkom Kenya, ahead of a potential commercial launch later this year.
Engadget reported the company received approval from the country’s aviation authority to begin trials. Testing will begin in the coming weeks and a representative told the news outlet a commercial service could be available in the coming months.
Loon, Google parent Alphabet’s bid to use high-altitude balloons to deliver coverage in hard to reach parts of the world, will allow mountain villagers to buy 4G services from Telkom Kenya.
The company and Telkom Keyna still need to conduct network integration testing and finalise documentation, but there is now increased confidence the project will see the light of day in the country.
Director general of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Gilbert Kibe reportedly said he had worked to gain approval for Loon for a couple of years and is excited Kenya was moving to become the first African country to launch.
Telkom Kenya struck a Loon partnership agreement with Alphabet in July 2018, ending speculation over which of Kenya’s four operators it would partner with.
While Loon is potentially making progress in Kenya, a Reuters report indicated this week other operators in the world have doubts.
The initiative came to light in 2011, delivering connectivity using helium-filled balloons. However, citing five operators across four continents, Reuters reported there are concerns Loon still needed to prove itself.
Telkom Indonesia, Vodafone New Zealand and French operator Orange are among those which said Loon must demonstrate its technology is safe, reliable and profitable.