On Monday 23rd March 2019, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced at a press briefing that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) had signed an agreement to allow Google’s Loon Balloons to access Kenyan airspace. This move is aimed at allowing more Kenyans to work from home in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic that has necessitated a lockdown in the country.
Google Loon is a project by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, that uses high altitude balloons floating at an altitude of 25 between 18 and 25 kilometres to provide wireless 4G network coverage to remote areas. The ballons are fitted with a 4G-LTE base station that is powered by solar panels and are maintained at a fixed area in the stratosphere by adjusting the density and volume of the gases used. Wind data and other atmospheric conditions are used to determine the volume and density of the gases is determined based. The ballons use directional antennas to transmit signals to ground stations that connect to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or LTE users.
This is good news at a time when huge swathes of rural Kenya are not covered by 4G. Telkom Kenya has been working with Google Loon on this project for the last two years but the latest move by Kenyan government will see approvals and access fast-tracked.