Alphabet has announced Loon’s first commercial deal in Africa merely a few days after the former X lab experiment finally became a full-fledged company. According to Reuters, the new subsidiary will deploy internet-relaying balloons in Kenya starting next year in partnership with local provider Telkom Kenya. The partnership will bring high-speed internet access to rural communities in the country, particularly those in remote locations ISPs can’t service.
Loon’s technology works by receiving wireless internet signals from a telcom partner on the ground. The balloon that receives that signal then relays it across the network of balloons in the region, which then beams it down to users on the ground. Those balloons are solar-powered, fly at an altitude of 60,000 feet above sea level and are capable of delivering a connection with LTE speeds. Kenya’s authorities are hoping that the technology can help the country achieve full internet coverage, one people can rely on even if they live far from cities.
While it remains to be seen whether Loon can connect all of Kenya, its previous tests prove that its technology works. Back when the company was still part of the X lab, it successfully provided over 100,000 people in Puerto Rico with basic internet connectivity after Hurricane Maria. It wasn’t perfect, since the island’s infrastructure suffered massive damage, but it was definitely a huge accomplishment for what was once considered a crazy X lab experiment.