Alphabet brings balloon internet to Kenya

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A Google-affiliated company has chosen Kenya as the home of its first announced commercial deal for delivering internet access to hard-to-reach areas using high-altitude balloons.

The pilot will take place within the general area of central Kenya, some of which has been hard to service, due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain.

The deal comes hot on the heels of the former Project Loon being upgraded from Alphabet's X research division into a separate subsidiary company.

They are powered by an on-board solar panel, to provide broadband coverage to lower population density areas.

Most recently, the company's balloons were used in Puerto Rico to provide emergency 4G/LTE service to 100,000 people following the devastation from Hurricane Maria. In this case, Telkom Kenya beams wireless internet signals to a Loon balloon, which works as a relay across an area below it.

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The connection will be delivered by high altitude balloons that float 20km above sea level.

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The Kenyan government hopes the system can help achieve full internet coverage of its population.

"This partnership demonstrated the Board's commitment to guide and oversee the transformation of Telkom into a business with a reputation for innovation, with respect to its product and service offering", said Eddy Njoroge, chair of Telkom Kenya's board.

Less than two weeks after being spun off as a standalone business, Alphabet Inc.'s internet balloon company Loon LLC has landed its first paying customer: African mobile provider Telkom Kenya.

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