High-altitude balloons are bringing internet to remote regions of Africa

Each week, we spotlight a cool innovation recommended by some of the industry’s top tech writers. This week’s pick is a fleet of high-altitude balloons.

Google’s new “fleet of high-altitude balloons” is bringing internet service to one of the remotest regions of Africa, said Abdi Latif Dahir in The New York Times. Acting as “floating cell towers,” the balloons began providing 4G LTE network connections last week across a nearly 31,000-square-mile area of central and western Kenya.

(Courtesy image)

The balloons were designed by Loon, a unit of Google parent Alphabet, and had previously been used only in emergency situations, “such as in Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria wiped out cell towers.” The Kenya venture is the company’s first commercial effort. The balloons are made of a polyethylene that can last 100 days hovering “about 12 miles up in the stratosphere.” In testing leading up to the launch, 35,000 users were able to stream video and make WhatsApp calls.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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