Loon and Telkom plan to launch the internet service next year (although this is subject to regulatory approval) and Telkom's boss Aldo Mareuse explained the telecoms business is committed to rolling out the service as quickly as possible.
The company, now simply called Loon, was the work of X, an innovation lab originally nestled under Google but now a subsidiary of Google's parent company, Alphabet. Loon's solution works by using hot-air balloons to essentially act as floating cell towers that can beam 4G access to smartphone owners down below.
Previously this technology was used by US telecom operators to provide connectivity to more than 250,000 people in Puerto Rico previous year. They're created to deliver internet connectivity to low density populations, where it's just not financially viable to install traditional underground cabling and other permanent lines to properties.
Loon-enabled internet service will be provided to portions of central Kenya starting next year, according to Loon chief executive Alastair Westgarth who said the company's goal was to "connect people everywhere". Further, I expect we'll see more of these third world countries jump on this type of service since the infrastructure required is pretty slim.
The Loon service will aim to provide extended 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities using high altitude balloons that operate 20km about sea level, placing them out of range of air traffic, wildlife and weather events.
Loon did not reveal the deal's financial terms, but Westgarth said that it involves the telecommunications company Telkom Kenya. Kenya's major cities and towns are covered by operator networks, but large parts of rural Kenya are not.