19 Jul 2018
Nairobi, Kenya/Mountain View, California, United States: July 19, 2018:
Telecommunications operator, Telkom and Loon, a subsidiary of Alphabet, today announce the signing of a definitive agreement to pilot an innovative new 4G/LTE access network service in Kenya. This will be Loon’s first commercial service in Africa.
Telkom Kenya’s Board Chair, Mr. Eddy Njoroge, states:
“This partnership demonstrates the Board’s commitment to guide and oversee the transformation of Telkom into a business with a reputation for innovation, with respect to its product and service offering. This partnership with Loon is also true testament of our resolve to deploy pioneer technologies due to their potential impact to our customers.”
Telkom Kenya’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Aldo Mareuse, states:
“Telkom is focused on bringing innovative products and solutions to the Kenyan market. With this association with Loon, we will be partnering with a pioneer in the use of high altitude balloons to provide LTE coverage across larger areas in Kenya. We will work very hard with Loon, to deliver the first commercial mobile service, as quickly as possible, using Loon’s balloon-powered Internet in Africa,” says Mr. Mareuse, adding that this will further enhance Telkom’s network to its customers.
The Loon service is an innovative approach to providing extended 4G/LTE coverage to rural and suburban areas with lower population densities, using high altitude balloons operating 20 kilometres (60,000 feet) above sea level, well above air traffic, wildlife, and weather events. 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. This animation explains how Loon works.
Loon Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Alastair Westgarth, states:
“We are extremely excited to partner with Telkom for our first engagement in Africa. Their innovative approach to serving their customers makes this collaboration an excellent fit. Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies. We couldn’t be more pleased to start in Kenya.”
Mr. Mareuse, the Telkom CEO, adds:
“This collaboration represents another important step towards Telkom’s continued quest to provide high-quality, reliable and affordable data offerings to our customers.”
The pilot will take place within the general area of central Kenya, some of which has been difficult to service, due to mountainous and inaccessible terrain. The exact coverage areas will be determined in the coming months, and subject to the requisite regulatory approvals.
Telkom and Loon will also work closely together over the coming months to prepare for the deployment of the service, which is expected in 2019.
Loon recently graduated from X, becoming an independent business within Alphabet.
Telkom connects the people that keep Kenya on the move. It does this by providing telecommunications solutions to individuals, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), Government and large corporates in Kenya, drawing from a diverse solutions suite that includes voice, data, mobile money as well as network services. Powered by its vast fibre optic infrastructure, it is also a major provider of wholesale, carrier-to-carrier traffic within the country and the region.
Telkom is building on a strong, consumer-centric ethos that is committed to providing innovative, accessible and refreshingly simple communications solutions that suit customers’ everyday communication needs.
Established as a telecommunications operator in April 1999, Telkom is 60 percent owned by Helios Investment Partners, with the remaining stake held by Kenyans through the Government of Kenya.
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Loon’s mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies. By redesigning the essential components of a cell tower so they can be carried by balloon 20 kilometers above Earth, Loon is making it possible to extend internet access to the billions who currently lack it. Using a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, Loon works with mobile network operators to expand coverage to un-served and underserved communities, upgrade existing networks, and provide expedient coverage after natural disasters. To date, Loon’s balloons have traveled more than 30 million kilometers around the world. Loon is a subsidiary of Alphabet.
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