World Mobile to launch hybrid mobile network in Zanzibar via balloons

20 December 2021

World Mobile, a blockchain-based mobile connectivity company targeting unconnected regions, is to launch a hybrid mobile network in Zanzibar that uses balloons.

The airborne component will involve low-altitude platform balloons and the firm said its balloons will be the first to officially launch in Africa for commercial use. 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.

World Mobile said the project – the first since a successful US$40m raise – will deliver coverage and access to the digital economy for over one million people in Zanzibar by the end of 2023.

It is described as the first step in World Mobile’s mission to help bring nearly four billion people online before 2030. This includes the rollout of over 100 mesh sites – local Wi-Fi nodes – during the first six months of 2022.

However, this is not the first attempt to bring the internet to remote areas via balloons. Earlier this year, the Alphabet-supported balloon-based internet network Loon called a halt to plans to cover unconnected regions after failing to find a financially stable business model.