Telecommunications giant Vodacom will use Alphabet subsidiary Loon’s balloon-powered Internet solution to expand its network in Mozambique.
As part of a new agreement, Vodacom will leverage Loon’s network of floating cell phone towers that operate 20 km above Earth to provide service to unserved and underserved parts of the country, including the Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces.
The Loon solution will provide a fourth-generation (4G) service that supports data, voice, sms and USSD, which will also enable mobile financial services, and will be available to any Vodacom subscriber with a standard 4G-voiceover long-term evolution-enabled handset and Sim card within the next few months.
Loon and Vodacom have been working collaboratively with Mozambican communications and aviation regulators, including Autoridade Reguladora das Comunicações de Moçambique and the Institute for Civil Aviation of Mozambique to obtain the necessary approvals to enable service in Mozambique.
The duo 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.
Over the next few months, Loon and Vodacom will continue installing terrestrial infrastructure, which will serve as the physical connection point for Loon’s balloons to Vodacom’s Internet and core network, while Loon will start flying balloons above Mozambique to learn the stratospheric wind patterns on which the balloons must navigate to remain above the service area.
Further, network integration testing is ongoing to ensure that this innovative solution works as intended.
“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,” said Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth.
“The partnership with Loon offers a key solution that will significantly accelerate Vodacom’s 4G coverage to areas of Mozambique that have been challenging to service,” said Vodacom Mozambique CTO Pedro Rabacal.
“Our aim is to expand and push to the edge of coverage so as to provide the same quality voice, data, sms and M-Pesa services to all Mozambicans,” he concluded.