According to Google and Telkom Kenya, this is the first balloon-powered internet to launch in Africa and the first non-emergency commercial deployment in the world. It will cover more than 50,000 sq.km of the country with a fleet of 35 balloons as part of the Google Loon project. The Loon service will work by beaming internet connectivity from ground stations to balloons 20km overhead. These balloons are linked to the ground stations that have been connected to Telkom's network.
How does it work? A signal can be sent across multiple balloons from the ground stations. A millimeter wave spectrum is utilized to send connectivity from the ground to the balloons overhead. This means creating a network of floating base stations that will serve a wide coverage area, delivering connectivity directly to a user's LTE-enabled device, below. Telkom Kenya's CEO Mugo Kabati said “This is an exciting milestone for Internet service provision in Africa and the world, more so that the service will pioneer in Kenya. The Internet-enabled balloons will be able to offer connectivity to the many Kenyans who live in remote regions that are under served or totally unserved, and as such remain disadvantaged.”
How do they come back down to earth? Extensive planning goes into securing landing zones, before a balloon is decommissioned, working closely with local air traffic control officials and ground partners, and coordinating with officials on landing and recovery procedures.