Innovation

Why Alphabet's Project Loon internet balloons are heading to Kenya next

Balloon-powered internet is bringing high-speed internet connectivity to rural areas, filling in connectivity gaps in rural areas.

Kenya will receive high-speed internet through Alphabet's system of balloon connectivity, according to a Wednesday report by Reuters. The balloons are part of Alphabet's effort to provide internet to rural or natural disaster-ridden areas, bringing connectivity to anyone and everyone.

Alphabet's innovation lab refer to the efforts as Project Loon, which has been in development since 2011. The project has successfully brought connectivity to more than 250,000 people in Puerto Rico, as well as tens of thousands of people in Peru. Both Puerto Rico and Peru faced major natural disasters last year—a hurricane and major flooding, respectively—and the high-tech balloons were able to restore connectivity in the wake of chaos.

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The project launches balloons into the stratosphere, transmitting internet from a telecommunications partner on land, according to its website.. The internet is then transferred across the balloon network and down to users on the ground. Alphabet has transmitted data over 100 km apart within the stratosphere, then down to people on the ground at speeds of 10 Mbps, even straight to LTE phones, said Project Loon.

"The Loon team are still working out contracts and hopefully once that is done, we can be able to see almost every part of the country covered. Connectivity is critical. If you are not online, you are left out," Kenya's information, communication and technology minister Joe Mucheru told Reuters.

Currently, Kenya's major cities—with over 45 million people—use operator networks for connectivity, but rural Kenya is not included, said Reuters. Project Loon's balloon connectivity solves that gap.

Project Loon isn't the only effort to bring internet to rural communities. Companies like Microsoft, SpaceX Starlink satellites, and Facebook's recently-shuttered Aquila drone service have all taken part in the effort to connect the entire world. Rural connectivity is not only valuable for those communities, but also for business professionals traveling for work or opening a company in those areas. If connectivity is everywhere, work can be too.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Alphabet's Project Loon is using high-tech balloons to bring internet connectivity to rural Kenya.
  • Project Loon has previously successfully connected Peru and Puerto Rico in times of natural disasters.

Also see

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Image: Google

About Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.

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