Alphabet's Shutting Down Its Internet-Beaming Loon Balloons
Google's parent company, Alphabet, announced it's shutting down its internet providing giant balloon company, Loon.
Loon is part of Alphabet's moonshot X business unit, and unfortunately didn't manage to bring costs down enough to keep up the company's needs, as Alastair Westgarth Loon's CEO, wrote in a blog on Thursday.
The giant balloons were self-navigating, and set to beam internet to rural and remote areas, or areas that were struck by disasters.
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"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," wrote Astro Teller, who leads X.
"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," he continued.
Loon was launched in 2013, and became its own independent company by 2018. Just in July last year, it sent up its first internet service in Kenya, launching 35 balloons above the country.
Loon's balloons also provided internet for areas that suffered natural disasters, such as in Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria hit the island nation, as well as in Peru in 2019 following the earthquake.
The tech venture aiming to provide internet through long-duration balloons for such areas was a noble and innovative idea. Loon's balloons essentially acted as high-altitude cell towers, beaming internet connectivity to mobile phones. However great an idea it was, it ultimately couldn't meet its financial needs.
"While we’ve found a number of willing partners along the way, we haven’t found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business," said Westgarth. "Today, I’m sad to share that Loon will be winding down."
Loon's Project Taara in Kenya, which uses light beams to deliver wireless internet from 12 miles away, is still forging ahead, however, and this most likely isn't the end of innovation for the company.
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