Vodacom closes in on commercial Loon launch


CTO, Vodacom Mozambique

INTERVIEW: Vodacom Mozambique CTO Pedro Rabacal revealed a partnership with Loon will soon bear fruit, with the pair in the final stages of preparing for a commercial launch by the year end.

Initial coverage from the balloon-based network will span an area of 100,000 square kms, targeting approximately 1 million people in rural parts of the country. This will offer a “step-improvement in coverage” as the operator works to bring service coverage to 21 million people by 2025, he said.

He added Loon’s technology will allow Vodacom to “connect people that are traditionally marginalised or out of the mainstream of coverage. It also allow us to reach geographies and operational areas that are very challenging for us.”

Rabacal said trials of Loon’s service yielded data rates of between 10Mb/s and 12Mb/s, “really a phenomenal speed to get” in remote regions. He noted any device currently operating on Vodacom’s terrestrial 4G network will be able to connect to the Loon infrastructure.

Henry de Chaille, Loon’s business development manager, said the companies received “great support” from authorities in Mozambique while they worked to get the necessary regulatory approvals for launch.

The key task now is finishing deployment of the ground stations, he said, explaining deploying the balloons is “actually the easiest part”.