Google’s Loon project officially launched today for commercial purposes. The project will enable Kenyans to receive 4G internet services for specific regions in the country. But why did Google partner with Telkom and not the beloved Safaricom? The latter has always emphasized their Twaweza a.k.a ‘can do it’ attitude for all matters technology.
But the reality is that Safaricom is headed downhill recently and since the death of their longest service CEO, Bob Collymore, it looks like the Kenya tech giant is about to lose its crown if they haven’t lost it already. Here is why Safaricom was not the preferred partner for the Loon project:
Telkom Kenya is the largest technology company in Kenya. Safaricom used to enjoy this status but since the merger between Telkom Kenya and Airtel, Telkom Kenya have overtaken Safaricom as the largest heavyweight in the tech industry.
Telkom Kenya has the backing from the government. The Kenyan treasury finances Telkom Kenya’s operations hence they have more money and support from the political machinery in the country as compared to Safaricom’s private investors.
Management uncertainty. Following the death of Bob Collymore, Safaricom’s management structure has been a little bit shaky as it has a very new CEO. In most cases, investors are not confident in investing in untested leadership.
Kenyans are in favor of choices hence by having another big player in the tech industry, they are assured of better rates as the two companies compete for market share.
With Google’s Loon project, Telkom Kenya will increase their coverage nationwide and hence offer better services to their subscribers. The project will help internet users browse the web faster with better connectivity not only for the internet, but also for phone reception as well as television.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet started Project Loon in 2011 in which it uses satellite weather balloons to deliver mobile internet to remote areas across the world.These balloon are technically in flight all the time, flying at an altitude of approximately 60,000ft (20km) above the surface of the earth to defined “destination”. This high altitude is required to avoid conflict and accidents with commercial aircraft that typically have a cruising altitude of between 29,000ft-45,000ft.
Incidences and Accidents
The Loon project has been involved in several incidences and accidents over the course of their development. These incidences greatly pose a serious risk to the flying public not only are the debris likely to be sucked into the jet engines, they can inflict serious damage to planes that will consequently cause flight control issues for the affected aircraft that may lead to a crash. The debris can also injure people and animals on the ground if they fall on them as well as damaging property.
The Loon project in Kenya launched in April 2020, but less than a month later, there already has been an accident for example on May 9th, 2020, a Project Loon balloon fell off the sky in a Western Kenya village although there were no injuries or death reported. According to Kenya’s Aviation Authority radars, the 130 kg balloon registered as Flight Number HBAL 131 tumbled through the sky near Nanyuki Airport, after experiencing technical problems.