Google’s balloon internet project Loon prepares for the first commercial test. According to the Reuters news agency, the company is testing with Telkom Kenia, the country’s third-largest operator. The goal is to provide mountain villagers with 4G services.
The Kenyan Aviation Authority announced that the final approval will be signed this month.
With balloons that fly in the stratosphere, Google wants since 2001 to provide broadband Internet access via LTE mobile in areas that are otherwise not supplied. Helium-filled balloons are placed on board at a high altitude (18 to 25 km) with a technology package and solar cells. The balloons of the Project Loon are influenced from the ground and can be directed in certain directions by using the wind direction at the respective height. The wind speeds are quite low in the stratosphere: At 8 to 32 kilometers per hour, the balloons should remain in the air for a very long time.
Executives from five other mobile operators, who were courted by Loon on four continents, said, however, according to Reuters, that Loon was out of the question for them and that this might never change. From these companies’ point of view, including Telkom Indonesia and Vodafone New Zealand, Loon needs to prove that its technology is reliable, secure and profitable for network operators.
Hervé Suquet, Chief Technology and Information Officer for Orange Middle East and Africa, said Loon must prove himself in Kenya. “If the results are positive, we would be interested,”said the manager of the French group.
The balloons each cost tens of thousands of dollars and must be replaced every five months because the plastic shells become brittle.