The government has now granted approvals to enhance universal 4G data coverage throughout the country, especially in rural areas, as Kenyans are urged to work from home amid the coronavirus crisis.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, addressing the press at State House in Nairobi on Monday, announced that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) had signed an agreement with Google Loon that allows their balloons to fly over the Kenyan airspace beaming high-speed internet.
According to the Head of State, the balloons carry 4G base stations and have the capacity to provide wider signal coverage.
“This intervention will enable Kenya to retain her competitive advantages in ICT and innovation in the midst of the current crisis; while at the same time laying the foundations for greater expansion once the current health challenge is contained,” he said.
“Additionally, this development will also enable Telkom Kenya Ltd (TKL) and Google Loon to start the commercial rollout of a 4G data network in the country as soon as the balloons are available on the Kenyan airspace. The two companies have been testing this service for the last two years.”
The service will now enable Kenyans, wherever they are in the country, to enjoy access to high-speed and affordable internet services.
President Kenyatta also lauded Google Loon and Telkom for offering their 4G service towards supporting the government’s surveillance and management of Covid-19 infections.
“Indeed, access to these services will keep Kenyans connected to emergency services and to their loved ones, whether isolated or in quarantine, or whether working from home or at the usual workplaces,” he added.
“Equally, this service will also enable teachers and students to access education materials remotely, especially in this challenging time; thus enabling our students to continue learning from home.”
President Kenyatta further thanked Google Loon for offering the service without levying any charges saying it was a true testament of the partnership between the government and the private sector.
The project between Google and Telkom was announced almost two years ago but, according to reports, had stalled due to “bureaucracy.
The Financial Times, a UK-based daily, previously said the project aimed at using solar-powered balloons to broadcast 4G internet signal in remote areas in the country.
Ground stations had initially been identified at Nyeri but regulatory approvals had, by then, not yet been issued by KCAA and the Ministry of Transport.