Alphabet’s X incubator lab is expanding long-term deployment of Project Loon to Africa for the first time.
The initiative broadcasts internet signals through Wi-Fi and LTE from durable balloons 20km in the air. Tests were completed through mountainous areas, remote regions and flood zones in Brazil, Indonesia, New Zealand and Peru with average flight times of several dozen days. It was recently launched in Puerto Rico to connect the island’s phones and tablets in the wake of Hurricane Irma and Maria last year which devastated the US territory’s power and communications grid.
Now, Kenyan information, communication and technology minister Joe Mucheru has told Reuters that Loon team members have been negotiating with local carriers to distribute their signal in the country.
“Loon is another technology that is being introduced that the licensed operators hopefully can be able to use,” Mucheru said. “Connectivity is critical. If you are not online, you are left out.”
Rural cellular coverage is sparse. One Kenyan start-up, with seed money from Microsoft, has been experimenting with ways to distribute wireless service through unoccupied space in the spectrum bands assigned to television.
For its part, Project Loon said that it is constantly in negotiation with potential partner companies and governments in many territories, but has not confirmed specifics to Kenya.