World Mobile this morning launched its hybrid mobile network supported by low altitude platform balloons in Zanzibar, as it plans to roll-out its service providing reliable mobile internet to more people at lower cost throughout Africa.
World Mobile’s balloons will be the first to officially launch in Africa for commercial use, providing a more cost-effective way to provide digital connection to people compared to rolling out legacy internet infrastructure.
The remotely controlled aerostat balloons are powered by solar panels, inflated by helium and tethered to the ground. Once airborne, they act as floating cellular base stations transmitting radio signals to ground stations and personal devices.
The project – the first since a successful $40m raise – will deliver coverage and access to the digital economy for over 1 million people in Zanzibar by end of 2023.
Google had a project looking at a similar type of tech, Loon, which it cancelled.
However, World Mobile have made the first step in its mission to help bring nearly four billion people online before 2030 in line with the UN and World Bank’s SDGs.
In fact, data from the United Nations shows almost half the world’s population, 3.7 billion people, the majority of them women, and most in developing countries, are still offline.
Beyond Zanzibar, World Mobile is in discussions with government officials in Tanzania and Kenya, as well as other territories underserviced by traditional mobile operators.
Micky Watkins, chief executive of World Mobile said: “We want to help create a world where everyone can access affordable connectivity, a world where economic freedom is a truth and a world where people are able to jump on the opportunities that internet creates. Zanzibar will become the world’s first smart region powered by World Mobile, connecting businesses, schools and society as a whole.”
“While these services have become indispensable, the high price of communication is a major entry barrier for the poor majority. World Mobile’s service launch of affordable internet service in Zanzibar will be a game changer allowing the vast majority of Zanzibaris to fully participate in the digital revolution.”