Internet balloons solution to Mozambique’s unreachable
Alphabet’s Loon and Vodacom have signed a deal to use Loon’s balloon-powered internet solution to expand the Vodacom network in Mozambique.
Loon will help Vodacom provide service to un-served and under-served parts of the country with a network of floating cell phone towers that operate 20 kilometres above Earth.
Using the Loon solution, Vodacom will expand mobile network access to Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces, two regions that have proven hard to cover due to the vast and logistically challenging geographical areas, together with low population density. The Loon solution will provide a 4G service and will be available to any Vodacom subscriber with a standard 4G-VoLTE enabled handset and SIM card. Users will not need to do anything special to connect to the service.
Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub said, “Vodacom’s partnership with Loon is a perfect example of how technological innovation can connect the most rural communities in Africa.”
Loon and Vodacom have been working collaboratively with Mozambican communications and aviation regulators, including Autoridade Reguladora das Comunicações de Moçambique (ARECOM) and the Institute for Civil Aviation of Mozambique (IACM), to obtain the necessary approvals to enable service in Mozambique.
Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth discussed how pleased they were to partner with Vodacom. “Vodacom has a big footprint in Southern Africa and provides service to tens of millions of people across multiple countries every single day. We view this as the first step to a larger partnership that will allow us to serve more of those users throughout Africa."
The companies are grateful to have received approvals to start importing and installing the required ground infrastructure for Loon’s balloons to operate in the stratosphere above the country, and for Loon to provide service over the Vodacom network.
Vodacom Mozambique Chief Technology Officer Pedro Rabacal added, “In times such as these, it is more important than ever that we find ways to ensure that we expand our coverage and services and that our customers have access to critical hygiene and lifesaving information.”
In the coming months, Loon and Vodacom will work together to continue installing terrestrial infrastructure. Loon will also begin flying balloons above Mozambique to learn the stratospheric wind patterns on which the balloons must navigate to remain above the service area.