A fleet of high-altitude balloons started delivering internet service to Kenya on Tuesday, extending online access to tens of thousands of people in the first-ever commercial deployment of the technology. The balloons, which hover about 12 miles up in the stratosphere — well above commercial airplanes — will initially provide a 4G LTE network connection to a nearly 31,000-square-mile area across central and western Kenya, including the capital, Nairobi. Loon, a unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, launched 35 balloons in recent months in preparation for Tuesday’s start. It is collaborating with Telkom Kenya, the East African nation’s third-largest carrier. Loon bills the service as a cost-effective solution to the difficult challenge of bringing internet access to people in underserved remote areas. The Kenya venture is being closely watched by telecom providers in other countries as a test of whether the technology is reliable and the service can be profitable.
SOURCE: THE NEW YORK TIMES