Alphabet LoonSource: Alphabet

What you need to know

  • Alphabet has announced that it is shutting down Loon, a project it started nine years back to beam high-speed internet to remote areas using floating balloons.
  • Loon will be helping its employees find other roles within various Alphabet companies over the coming months.
  • It has also pledged a $10 million fund to boost connectivity in Kenya.

Google parent Alphabet has decided to shut down Loon, which started as an experimental project in 2013 with an aim to beam down high-speed internet access from floating balloons (via TechCrunch). In 2018, Loon became an independent company under Alphabet, along with Wing.

Announcing the decision in a blog post, Astro Teller, head of Alphabet's X moonshot division, wrote:

Sadly, despite the team's groundbreaking technical achievements over the last 9 years — doing many things previously thought impossible, like precisely navigating balloons in the stratosphere, creating a mesh network in the sky, or developing balloons that can withstand the harsh conditions of the stratosphere for more than a year — the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped. So we've made the difficult decision to close down Loon. In the coming months, we'll begin winding down operations and it will no longer be an Other Bet within Alphabet.

Loon says it is working on helping its employees find alternative roles at X, Google, and Alphabet over the coming months. A small group, however, will stay to smoothly and safely wrap up the company's operations – including its pilot service in Kenya. Even though Loon is shutting down, the company has pledged a fund of $10 million to support businesses and nonprofits focused on internet, connectivity, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya.

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Loon had launched its first commercial service in Kenya last year. It had also provided internet services in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in October 2017 and in Peru in May 2019 after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake hit the country.

Some of Loon's technology also lives on in Alphabet's Project Taara, which is currently working to bring affordable, high-speed internet access to under-connected communities starting in Kenya.

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