A UK-based mobile connectivity company, World Mobile, has announced the launch of a hybrid mobile network in zanzibar supported by balloons. The company aims to use the low altitude balloons to provide reliable low-cost Internet to people in unconnected regions.
The aerostat balloons are remotely controlled and are inflated by helium and powered by solar panels before they are tethered to the ground. Once airborne, they will act as floating cellular base stations that transmit radio signals enabling connection to personal devices and other ground stations.
World Mobile says it is the first to launch its balloon hybrid network for commercial use. The project is the company’s first after a successful $40 million raise. It is designed to provide coverage and access to the digital economy for over 1 million people in Zanzibar by 2023.
The company says it is the first step in its mission to provide Internet to over four billion people globally in line with the UN and World Bank SDGs.
The company plans to roll out out 20 mesh sites-local WiFi nodes- by January 2022 and 120 sites within the first six months of 2022 including the first aerostat launch.
World Mobile is also eyeing other underserved territories in Tanzania and Kenya that might benefit from the project.
This Is not the first project involving internet balloons in Africa. Early this year, Google parent company, Alphabet, pulled the plug on its Project Loon service in Kenya after failing to find a commercially viable business model.