Google parent firm cancels internet balloon project in Kenya’s remote areas

Google Loon Techcrunch
Internet Balloon courtesy of Google. [Photo: TechCrunch]

An ambitious project by Telkom Kenya to provide Internet balloons for internet access in remote parts of the country is now in limbo.

This follows a move by Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc plan to shut down the Google Loon balloon business.

Alphabet Inc is executing this plan in a bid to change its business.

In a statement on Friday, Alphabet Inc said that the project will be suspended on March 1.

Telkom had been piloting the Google Loon project since July 2020 before Alphabet Inc said the business model was not commercially viable.

However, the company pledged to work with Telkom closely in winding up the project.

“Telkom believes in taking bold decisions, It was very exciting therefore, to partner with like-minded pioneers in the adoption and usage of innovative technologies such as Loon, with the aim of filling in the internet access gaps in areas that were difficult to service,” Telkom Kenya CEO Mugo Kibati stated.

The Internet balloons had been deployed Eldoret, Baringo, Iten, Kisumu, Kisii, Narok, Nakuru, Kericho and Bomet.

Google Loons are a cheap alternative to cell towers. Founded in 2011, the loons were designed with floating solar-powered wireless networking gear.

It was then launched in 2013 and piloted for the first time in Kenya in 2020 through Telkom Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in March directed the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to get the project off the ground after signing an agreement with Alphabet.

“This intervention will enable Kenya to retain her competitive advantages in ICT and innovation in the midst of the current crisis; while at the same time laying the foundations for greater expansion once the current health challenge is contained,” he stated.