Alphabet subsidiary Loon, in collaboration with Telkom Kenya to roll out internet access to rural and remote areas, has announced the installation of a new ground station in Nyeri.
In July 2018 Telkom Kenya was announced as the first African telco to sign a commercial deal with Loon.
At the time Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth was quoted as saying: "Loon's mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies. We couldn't be more pleased to start in Kenya."
The project has now taken a step forward in the East African country, according to a statement released by the company, with Nyeri being the latest station established, after Nakuru and Nairobi.
The companies claim describe the latest ground station as a key step toward the deployment of commercial service ... "and the installation of ground stations paves the way for testing with Loon's stratospheric balloons. "
The company has announced plans to begin such testing in the first half of this year.
Loon explains that ground stations are strategically located to support balloon access to an internet connection. They are located in places that already have access to internet and data services.
Loon works by beaming an Internet signal from these ground stations to a balloon 20km overhead. That signal can then travel across multiple balloons and long distances, allowing Loon to provide service far from where the ground station is located.
According to Loon, in this way, underserved areas that have little or no connectivity can be reached.
The objective is to provide extended 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities.
"The balloons act as floating cell towers, transmitting a provider's service - in this case Telkom's service - directly to a subscriber's existing 4G/LTE phone below. Loon's equipment is powered by on-board solar panels, eliminating reliance on power infrastructure that is often lacking in rural or remote areas. The lack of such power infrastructure can be an impediment to setting up ground-based towers in such areas," the companies state.
The partners have also emphasised the intention to enable more Kenyans to access the internet via their mobile phones.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates at the end of 2018, 51.2% of the global population (approximately 3.9 billion people) were using the internet.
According to Internet World Stats as of June 2017, 43, 329, 434 Kenyans (approximately 89.4% of the population) were using the internet.
Research published by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) states: "Available data indicates that as atJuly 2018 there were 4.1 billion active Internet users globally of which 3.3 billion were active social media users. Reports from the ITU also indicate that mobile broadband has become more accessible and affordable than fixed in developing countries and Kenya is no exception. By the end of September 2018, the total number of active Internet/data subscriptions stood at 42.2 million up from 41.1 million subscriptions reported end of June 2018 marking a growth of 2.7 percent."