Alphabet's internet-delivery balloon service, Loon, has finally received approval from the Kenyan government. To help improve communication during the coronavirus pandemic, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta fast-tracked the regulatory approval Loon and its partner, Telkom Kenya, were waiting on. Loon expects to begin providing service to remote areas of Kenya in the "near future."
Once up and running, Loon's internet-delivery balloons will allow Kenyans to buy 4G service from Telkom Kenya. The project has been in the works since 2018, when Loon signed a contract with the operator. Last summer, the partners received approval for commercial testing in the country.
Loon is now dispatching its existing airborne balloons and preparing new ones to launch from sites in the US. Those balloons will travel to Kenya via stratospheric winds 20 kilometers above Earth, a process that takes a number of weeks. Once the balloons arrive in Kenya, Loon will conduct the final stages of network integration testing with Telkom Kenya.
"Given the global situation with COVID-19, we're working as fast as we can to deploy the Loon service in Kenya to help in the short-term, and establish sustainable operations that will continue to serve Kenyans for the long-term," Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth wrote in a blog post.
While Loon is attempting to help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic, like all companies, it has been impacted too. It has reduced operational capacity at its launch sites and is adjusting to necessary travel restrictions. Thanks to the groundwork already laid in Kenya, though, Westgarth says, "we're confident that we can address these challenges and begin providing meaningful service to Kenyas in the near future."