Google’s Loon’s internet balloons approved to fly in Kenya

Balloons being dispatched to Kenya are expected to arrive in a few weeks for final network testing

The Kenyan government has given formal approval for Loon’s balloons to operate in the stratosphere above the country. This is a critical step in Loon’s efforts to provide service in Kenya on a sustained basis, supported by their partners Telkom Kenya, and the Kenyan government.

In the immediate term, this means that they will begin dispatching existing airborne balloons, as well as preparing new ones to launch from Loon’s launch sites in the United States, and navigating them to Kenya on the stratospheric winds 20km above Earth. This process takes time, and they expect it to be a number of weeks before Loon’s balloons arrive in Kenya. Once there, the final stages of network integration testing with Telkom Kenya will be conducted, followed by start of the service to Kenyans.

Loon’s deployment in Kenya has been in the works since they signed a contract with Telkom Kenya in July 2018. Since then, they’ve been collaborating with both Telkom and the government to prepare for these operations. Given the global situation with COVID-19, Loon is working as fast as they 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.

Like many businesses big and small, Loon’s operations have seen some impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the short term the operational capacity have been reduced, and necessary travel restrictions have impacted their ability to conduct business as usual. With the groundwork the company has already laid in Kenya, however, they are confident to be able to address these challenges and begin providing meaningful service to Kenyans in the near future.