Kenya is aiming to connect its more remote regions through Alphabet’s Project Loon.
The country’s communications minister Joe Mucheru told Reuters that the initiative, which is operated by Alphabet’s innovation unit X, will be run in partnership with local operators, confirming previous reports.
He declined to mention which of the country’s four mobile operators might be involved, saying: “The Loon team are still working out contracts and hopefully once that is done, we can be able to see almost every part of the country covered.”
Kenyans predominantly use their mobile phones to connect to the internet, as there is relatively little home broadband access. In September last year, the Communications Authority of Kenya reported that nationwide, home broadband penetration stood at 39% compared to 90% mobile penetration.
Project Loon uses high altitude balloons to deliver connectivity in inaccessible areas. The project has received extensive testing worldwide but gained international attention last year after its balloons were used to provide emergency coverage in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. The disaster rendered much of the island’s communications infrastructure unusable, leaving 250,000 people offline.
Alphabet’s move into Kenya follows the news that rival Facebook has abandoned its Aquila project, which aimed to offer connectivity in remote areas via high altitude drones.