A single plastic balloon can provide internet connectivity to an area of about 80 km in diameter and serve about 1,000 users on the ground.
How are internet balloons working and used by many countries?
Google’s internet balloons are wireless Internet connectivity towers that float across the stratosphere. They transmit Internet signals to earth-based stations, which then transmit the Internet to users through Internet service providers.
These giant floating balloons are made of plastic. They are equipped with solar panels that power the gadgets that control the operation of the balloon and the internet beam signals to the earth. Using a special crane, the balloons are propelled to the stratosphere — a height of about 20 km above the earth. Artificial intelligence software installed on balloon computers controls floating movements using wind power.
A single balloon can provide internet connectivity to an area of approximately 80 km in diameter and serve approximately 1,000 users on the ground.
It is expected that the signal strength of users will be similar to the 4 G browsing speed.
What do you think internet connectivity looks like in Kenya?
Kenya has a wide variety of connectivity infrastructures. Approximately 39 million Kenyans are connected to wireless subscriptions, mostly via mobile phones, which depend on mast signals. There are about 458,000 wired subscriptions.
This is impressive for a population of approximately 51 million people. By comparison, Tanzania’s Internet connectivity reached an estimated 27 million people (out of about 56 million) by March 2020.
Kenya also continues to deepen its connectivity infrastructure through a national fiber optic cable network. To date, close to 6,000 km of the fiber optic backbone has been established and plans are to reach all 47 counties.
In spite of impressive developments, more can be done. Most people in Kenya are using their mobile phones to access the internet. When we look at how well mobile providers geographically cover the country, we see that large areas of the country, particularly in the north and north-east, have little coverage. Most of the internet coverage is around cities in the central, coastal and western areas and along major roads.
This state of coverage is partly attributable to privatization of the Internet and electricity.
Commercially, it makes no sense for Internet service providers to cover areas of low population density, as the cost of physical internet infrastructure outweighs the benefits of subscription.
Connectivity is also affected by market competition. Two mobile network operators – Safaricom and Airtel – are on the market. They did not provide Internet users with choice in terms of price, service variety and quality. And over about 20 years, the telecommunications market has seen the deaths of nearly 70 Internet service providers.