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Alphabet’s Loon launches solar-powered internet balloons in Kenya 

The target is to take a fleet of 35 balloons to the skies above in Eastern African.

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Alphabet’s Loon launches solar-powered internet balloons in Kenya 

Following a deal with the Kenyan Government, Alphabet Inc has launched the first commercial high-speed internet powered by balloons in Kenya.

The service is jointly run by Loon, a unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet, and Telkom Kenya, the East African nation’s third largest telecoms operator.

According to Loon, the service which launched Wednesday in remote regions of Kenya’s Rift Valley, will initially cover 50,000 square kilometers in western and central parts of Kenya.

The target, however, is to take a fleet of 35 balloons to the skies above in Eastern African over the coming weeks.

This is a milestone achievement, following years of publicity about the venture, and is expected to provide reliable 4G internet service using the solar-powered balloons.

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According to reports, the service has been used by U.S. Telecom operators in the past but not on a commercial level.

“This is a first in many ways: the first non-emergency use of Loon to provide connectivity on a large-scale basis, the first application of balloon-powered internet in Africa, and the first of what will be many commercial deployments around the world,” Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post.

READ MORE: Multichoice group adds live sports to streaming service, Showmax

He noted that during the weeks of testing, the service had connected over 35,000 unique users, delivering OTT voice and video calling, streaming, web connectivity, and more, with a demonstrated download speed of 18.9Mbps (megabits per second) and upload speed of 4.74Mbps.

“While this sounds like a far-off, science-fiction future, it’s not. Just look to Kenya,” Westgarth added.

Rather than delivering connectivity from the ground through cell towers and cables, or from space via satellites, Loon says it is building a “third layer of connectivity” in the stratosphere.

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Loon describes the project as a “floating network of cell towers,” aimed at providing internet from high altitudes to vast swathes of the Earth where service is not available.

This is a timely intervention considering the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increased need for internet services to push the e-commerce sector.

“Kenya is the first country… to have base stations high up in the sky. Now we will be able to cover the whole country in a very short span of time,” Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s Information Minister said after launching the service.

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Westgarth also said that Loon has a deal to roll out the service with Vodacom in Mozambique, and that the company has seen increased interest from operators and governments after the coronavirus crisis forced people to rely on the internet more heavily.

 

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career. As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

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Jumia confirms COVID-19 lockdowns did not help e-commerce revenues

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Jumia is optimistic of COVID-19 boost, despite poor Q1 2020 earnings report

Africa’s leading e-commerce firm Jumia released its second-quarter earnings on Wednesday showing it incurred a loss of Eur 37.6 million (N17.1 billion) in the second quarter of 2020 despite the rampaging effect of COVID-19.

According to Jumia, it did not experience any “meaningful change in consumer behavior” following the COVID-19 induced shutdown.

READ MORE: Apapa Command’s revenue rises 10.59% to N227.3 billion in the first half of 2020 – Customs 

Contemporary views suggest e-commerce firms were one of the winners in the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdown. However, the company reported significant challenges to its operations. Here is how Jumia responded;

  • In Nigeria and South Africa, we faced significant disruption as a result of movement restriction.
  • This disruption persisted during the early part of the second quarter of 2020, before gradually easing towards the later part of the quarter.
  • Our food delivery business, Jumia Food, which was negatively impacted by restaurant shutdowns starting mid-March, resumed normal operations in late May/early June in most cities where we operate the service.
  • Across the majority of our addressable market, we experienced no meaningful change in consumer behavior, aside from increased demand for essential and every-day products and reduced appetite for higher ticket size, discretionary purchases.
  • The nature of lockdown measures put in place consisted mostly of localized restrictions of movement and partial curfews rather than nationwide lockdowns, with the former leading to less drastic changes in consumer lifestyles and behavior than all-encompassing, nationwide lockdowns.

READ ALSO: Jumia CEOs to take salary cut, create support fund for workers

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What this means

Jumia’s revelations confirm fears that the COVID-19 lockdowns may not have positively impacted on the e-commerce sector whose business model requires that their gross merchandise volumes increase for them to improve margins.

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However, by confirming that Nigerians focussed more on essentials, the negative impact of the COVID-19 appears to be more severe than even expected.

Nigerians are perhaps also cautious about their spending, avoiding expenditures that do not speak to their immediate need such as food supplies, medicare, and utilities.

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FEATURED

Jumia reports N17.1 billion loss in Q2 as COVID-19 fail to boost revenue

Jumia reported a loss after tax of Eur 37.6 million (N17 billion) in the second quarter of 2020.

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Q3 ’19: Jumia grows revenue by 52%

One of Africa’s leading e-commerce companies, Jumia reported a loss after tax of Eur 37.6 million (N17 billion) in the second quarter of 2020 despite the rampaging effect of COVID-19.

E-commerce firms were expected to be one of the major beneficiaries of COVID-19 pandemic as consumers gravitated to online orders to meet essential needs.

The losses were a much improvement from the Eur 66.7 million loss reported in the same period in 2019 as Jumia strives to dig itself out of massive loss hole. However, the losses wiped out Jumia’s revenue of Eur 34.9 million reported in the quarter under review.

READ ALSO: Despite shutdown, Caverton rakes in N8billion in Helicopter and Aircraft revenues

On Customer Acquisition, Jumia reports it now has 6.8 million active customers as in the second quarter of 2020 up 40% when compared to the same quarter in 2019. Orders also reached 6.8 million up 8%, while GMV was €228.3 million, down 13% on a year-over-year basis.

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Jumia explained the results as follows;

“We have made significant progress on our path to profitability in the second quarter of 2020, with Operating loss decreasing 44% year-over-year to €37.6 million. This was achieved thanks to an all-time high Gross Profit after Fulfillment expense of €6.0 million and record levels of marketing efficiency with Sales & Advertising expense decreasing by 51% year-over-year,” Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec, Co-Chief Executive Officers of Jumia.

He continued, “We are navigating these uncertain times of COVID-19 pandemic with strong financial discipline and operational agility which positions us to emerge from this crisis stronger and even more relevant to our consumers, sellers, and communities.”

READ MORE: Nigerian Treasury bills fall to 5.3% per annum

Results Review

A cursory look at the results reveals Jumia reported revenue of Eur 34.9 million compared to Eur 38.8 million same period in 2019. Whilst Jumia reported significant revenue growth in key Platform revenue segments such as Commissions, Fulfillment, Marketing & Advertising it lost big in its First Party revenue. The First Party revenue are closed sales leads generated when customers directly visit an e-commerce website or call or contact them directly to make purchases.

READ MORE: Exclusive: Best bank in Nigeria judging by the numbers

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Jumia reported that First Party revenue fell a whopping 49.1% YoY to Eur 11 million compared to Eur 21.6 million the same period in 2019. Despite the drop in revenues, Jumia experienced a growth in gross profit as a change in its business model helped reduce the direct cost of sales. In the quarter under review, gross profit rose 38.2% to Eur 23.3 million.

The company claims cost-cutting was driven by cost efficiency initiatives. For example, it explains that it “changed the volume pricing model from a price per successfully delivered package to a price per successful stop which led to a c. 8% reduction in cost per order for a given route. Our third party logistics partners are now paid per successful stop at customer address, regardless of the number of packages included in the delivery”.

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It also claimed it adopted a mother-daughter warehouse system which brings warehouses stocked with “essential products” closer to customers helping reduce last-mile delivery cost.

Jumia’s Ebitda closed at Eur 32.9 million compared to Eur 44.4 million the same period last year representing a 25.9% drop in Ebitda losses. Jumia’s accumulated losses are now a staggering Eur 1.17 billion while its net assets are just Eur 108.4 million. Jumia’s loans total about Eur 10 billion.

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Tech News

Facebook unveils F2 for payment and commerce plans, appoints David Marcus to head group

The F2 group will also pursue commerce opportunities across all the apps in the company.

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COVID 19: Facebook provides free Ads to help WHO combat Misinformation, Facebook to change Libra unveiling plans, Facebook launches new messaging app, 'Tuned', just for couples, Facebook bans racist ads, in response to ad boycotts by big brands

Facebook Inc has unveiled a new group, the Facebook Financial (F2), to run its payment projects including Facebook Pay, the universal payments plan which will run across all its apps. The F2 group will also pursue commerce opportunities across all the apps in the company.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the group will be headed by David Marcus, co-creator of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project and head of Novi, the division building a digital wallet for the new crypto.

Marcus will also be involved in WhatsApp’s payments efforts in India and Brazil, while he will be assisted by former Upwork Chief Executive Officer, Stephane Kasriel who will serve as a payments vice president.

READ ALSO: President Trump finally bans TikTok, WeChat

“We have a lot of commerce stuff going on across Facebook, It felt like it was the right thing to do to rationalize the strategy at a company level around all things payments,” Marcus said.

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According to the statement, this is only the latest effort to bring all of Facebook’s apps and products closer together. CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, had on many occasions announced plans to integrate all the company’s messaging services.

The president of the group, Marcus, explained that with users making more purchases across Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, the company’s advertising revenue is expected to grow. This is bearing in mind that users would be spending more time in the apps.

The top priority to be handled by the group is activating the payment solutions in India and Brazil, where regulations have stalled the company’s efforts to make WhatsApp a foremost destination for commerce.

READ MORE: Facebook brings digital payment to WhatsApp, begins test-run in Brazil

The Backstory: While presenting the company’s Q2 2020 results in July, Zuckerberg had expressed his excitement about the commercial aspect of the company’s messaging apps, saying that the trend will likely grow as payment options are rolled out in the company’s apps.

Note that the head of the new group, Marcus, is a payments expert who joined Facebook in 2014 from PayPal Holdings Inc. where he was president. He ran Facebook Messenger for four years before he was appointed to take charge of Libra and get the cryptocurrency running for cross border payments.

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