Alphabet’s Loon Will Send Internet-Beaming Balloons to Kenya
Alphabet subsidiary Loon intends to send its giant balloons to Kenya, where they will beam the internet to the country.
Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said in a Medium post Thursday that the company plans to “provide balloon-powered internet to regions of central Kenya, starting in 2019.”
Loon did not reveal the deal’s financial terms, but Westgarth said that it involves the telecommunications company Telkom Kenya.
Westgarth said that the deal is “a first for all of us” and Loon and Telkom Kenyan will “collaborate on the technical, operational, and other work needed to expand Telkom’s network to more people in Kenya.”
“Our path to success as a company is through providing value to mobile network partners like Telkom Kenya and helping them extend their reach to places where ground-based infrastructure can’t go,” Westgarth wrote. “At the end of the day, Loon is providing an infrastructure solution — it just happens to be 60,000 feet in the air, on the edge of space.”
Loon’s new Kenyan project is the first the company has made since it recently became an independent Alphabet subsidiary, along with drone-delivery company Wing earlier in July. Both Loon and Wing were once so-called moonshots of Alphabet’s research arm X, and have now become sibling companies to Google (GOOG).
The goal of Alphabet’s moonshots is to create new companies that use experimental technologies intended to solve major world problems and ultimately benefit Alphabet. In January, the X research lab spun off new cyber security company Chronicle to become an Alphabet subsidiary that could help Google’s efforts to grow its enterprise technology business.
If Loon’s experimental Internet-delivering balloons work as intended, more Kenya citizens could get access to the web, which could in turn lead to more people using Google and its related services in the country.
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It’s similar in ways to Facebook’s (FB) previous Internet-delivery projects intended to bring the web to places in the world that lack stable infrastructure. However, Facebook has had a series of setbacks in its plans, and recently shuttered its project to build its own Internet-delivering drones, instead relying on partner companies instead.