Alphabet’s Loon Plans To Launch Internet Access Balloons In Uganda

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
internet access
Loon plans to address coverage issues and expand internet access in Uganda by flying helium-powered balloons over remote areas in the East African country. Image Source: Loon.

Loon, a company owned by Google-parent Alphabet that provides internet access via helium-powered balloons, has announced an overflight agreement with Uganda, according to TechAfrica.

The balloons allow internet access for users in remote regions that are not served by mobile networks.

Ground stations in internet-enabled areas beam an internet signal to high-altitude balloons capable of providing a connection to distant areas that do not have internet coverage.

Of the 800 million people worldwide who live in areas without internet coverage, 44 percent — around 352 million people — are in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Economic Forum reports.

Expanding internet access in Uganda

In 2018, there were 10 million mobile internet connections in Uganda — a penetration rate of 23 percent, compared to less than 1 percent for fixed-line internet connections, according to a 2019 report by the GSM Association.

Loon’s agreement with the Ugandan government is critical to the success of the project. The balloons operate at high altitudes, sharing airspace with other aircraft.

The Loon project began in 2013 as part of Alphabet’s effort to provide internet access to unconnected communities worldwide, mostly in poorer countries.

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Loon is already operating in neighboring Kenya. In July 2018, Telkom Kenya became the first mobile operator to partner with the Loon project, according to DailyMaverick.