President Uhuru Kenyatta's project to provide internet connectivity in Kenya is in limbo after the shut down of Google's Loon project.
The announcement was made on Friday, January 22 by tech expert Astro Teller who is in charge of the project that was under Google's mother company, Alphabet. It was carried out in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Telkom Kenya.
The high-altitude stratospheric balloons provide internet access by creating an aerial wireless network, registering speeds of up to 1 Mbps.
The company cited that the Loon project was no longer commercially viable, adding that the exit was already in progress.
"A small group of the Google Loon team will stay to ensure Loon’s operations are wrapped up smoothly and safely - this includes winding down Loon’s pilot service in Kenya," Teller announced.
Loon launched its first commercial internet service in Kenya in July 2020, consisting of a fleet of about 35 balloons that covered an area of around 50,000 square kilometres.
President Kenyatta had taken a special interest in the project and was hopeful that the new development would enable Kenya to retain her competitive advantages in ICT and innovation.
“In that regard, and to foster communication and enable Kenyans to retain and enhance remote access to the offices and enterprises, my administration has granted approvals that will ensure universal 4G data coverage throughout Kenya,” said the President at State House.
The Google representative thanked Kenya for providing the opportunity to offer its innovation and internet connectivity through the Loon project.
“Although Loon is going away, our commitment to connectivity isn’t. Today we’re pledging a fund of Ksh1 billion to support nonprofits and businesses focussed on connectivity, internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya,” he added.
In August 2020, one of the balloons deployed to Kenya crashed in Congo, sparking a flurry of chatter and speculation, including claims that it was a UFO.
A spokesperson for the Google subsidiary, however, stated that the balloon was deployed in the initial testing phase and was not among those providing commercial internet access.