Telkom Kenya and Loon have announced that they will phase in operation of the balloon internet service for Kenyans from July. They are approaching the completion of their network integration tests. In one field testing session in late June, Loon and Telkom registered an uplink speed of 4.74 mbps, a downlink speed of 18.9 mbps, and latency of 19 milliseconds (ms).
In this and subsequent testing, the service was used for applications such as email, web browsing, data calls such as via WhatsApp, video calls, and YouTube. Loon and Telkom are working together to limit any potential disruptions and improve service. As Loon gains more experience of flying in Kenya, and dispatches more balloons to the service region, it is expected that service consistency will increase.
The Loon technology is solar-powered so customers will receive mobile internet service from 06:00 hrs to 21:00 hrs. The service will initially cover nearly 50,000 square kilometres including the areas of Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, and Narok. To provide service in Kenya, Loon and Telkom are utilising a fleet of around 35 or more separate balloons that are in constant motion in the stratosphere above eastern Africa.
Balloons are launched from locations in the US and navigate to Kenya using wind currents in the stratosphere. Loon’s advanced machine learning algorithms work to keep balloons above the service region but there are times when certain stratospheric wind patterns and other impediments such as restricted airspace will result in limited availability to those below.