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It’s difficult to imagine for many of us, but even in the age of the Internet of Things, Big Data, and Social Media, there are some parts of the world that remain off-line. The most prominent example of this might be the continent of Africa, where the United Nations estimates that less than one-third of the population accessed the internet last year.
However, the folks at Loon – the lesser-known sibling company of Google that is also owned by Alphabet – is looking to improve on that number.
The company recently launched a fleet of 35 solar-powered, high-altitude balloons across the nation of Kenya. The balloons, each of which is about the size of a tennis court, are made of clear polyethylene and will serve as floating cell towers in delivering 4G internet access to about 31,000 square miles of Western and Central Kenya.
This is an area about the equivalent of the state of South Carolina. The balloons should be able to float in the stratosphere for about 100 days before returning via ground control software. Loon is collaborating with Telkom Kenya, one of the largest internet providers in the region.
Kenya was chosen as the pilot site due to the East African country’s stronger internet usage rate – about 80% of the country’s 48 million people are currently able to access the internet.
Image Credit: Thomas Industry Update
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