Alphabet Is Shutting Down Loon

Ruben Fields
January 22, 2021

Loon should have been an out-of-this-world experience that transmits internet connection using a balloon service to humans, but Google's Alphabet has scrapped that venture and project due to unforeseen costs.

Alphabet is shutting down its Loon project.

In a statement, Loon's CEO, Alastair Westgarth said, "Loon would not have been possible without a community of innovators and risk takers who were willing to take a chance on us and build something the world has never seen before".

Alphabet chief executive Astro Teller said in another blog post that despite Loon's "groundbreaking technical achievements" over the past nine years, "the road to commercial viability has proven to be much longer and longer. risky than expected".

"We wanted Loon to be a attractive solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem", said Teller. Google started working on Loon in 2011 and launched the project with a public test in 2013.

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A high altitude WiFi internet hub, a Google Project Loon balloon, on display.

"A small group of the Loon team will stay to ensure Loon's operations are wrapped up smoothly and safely - this includes winding down Loon's pilot service in Kenya".

Loon had scaled up its communications equipment from technology that could have been made in a college dorm room (literally: WiFi routers inside styrofoam beer coolers), to a communications system capable of delivering mobile internet coverage over an 11,000 square km area, 200 times that of an average cell tower.

Commenting on the development, Telkom Kenya's CEO, Mugo Kibati said partnering with like-minded pioneers in the adoption and usage of innovative technologies such as Loon was very exciting. This follows an announcement that Loon LLC is being globally shut down as a company.

The Google representative thanked Kenya for providing the opportunity to offer its innovation and internet connectivity through the Loon project. And last summer, Loon announced it was partnering with the government of Kenya to launch balloons that would provide commercial connectivity services in that country. According to an X spokesperson, the company has established a $10 million fund "to support nonprofits and businesses focused on connectivity, internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya", while Project Taara continues to operate in the region. Alphabet previously shuttered what it calls "other bets", or entities separate to Google, such as one working on power-generating kites.

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