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Alphabet to deploy Loon internet balloons in Kenya's skies in 2019

If all goes well, Kenya's remote areas will get Wi-Fi from the sky.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin works the mic as a Loon balloon and other guests look on.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin works the mic as a Loon balloon and other guests look on.
James Martin/CNET

Alphabet's Loon project said Thursday that its balloons will bring internet to remote parts of Kenya next year.

This'll be the project's first deal in Africa, Reuters reports, and it'll see Loon working with Telkom Kenya to get high-speed internet to the East African country's rural and suburban populations.

Loon became its own company only last week -- having started in 2016 as a project at X, Google parent Alphabet's research-and-development facility. It uses high-flying balloons powered by on-board solar panels as Wi-Fi carriers to deliver signals from above.

The balloons float at 60,000 feet (20 km) above sea level -- high over air traffic, wildlife and weather events.

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"Loon's mission is to connect people everywhere by inventing and integrating audacious technologies," said Loon CEO Alastair Westgart. "We couldn't be more pleased to start in Kenya."

The balloons will be deployed in central Kenya, which Telkom says has been a challenge to service because of mountainous and inaccessible terrain.

"We will work very hard with Loon, to deliver the first commercial mobile service, as quickly as possible, using Loon's balloon-powered Internet in Africa," said Aldo Mareuse, Telkom's CEO.

Last year, Alphabet teamed with AT&T to bring limited internet access to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.