Floating 19km above the Earth, high above commercial aircraft, internet balloons offer the possibility of online connection for hundreds of millions of people living in emerging markets. Loon, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has launched its first commercial project in Kenya. Success will lead more countries to seek a deal.

Loon has already proved that its polyethylene, solar-powered helium balloons work by providing internet access to hurricane-hit Puerto Rico. Kenya is a test of whether the service can be profitable. Cheaper than digging cables, the balloons use algorithms to navigate air currents and stay in one place, beaming 4G internet signals down to remote areas.

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