Google shuts down a high-profile moonshot company

The company said it failed to find a long term sustainable business model for Loon.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

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Google’s parent company Alphabet has decided to pull the plug from its Internet balloon company, Loon, almost a decade after it was set up. The company said it failed to find a long term sustainable business model for Loon.

Astro Teller, CEO of X and Chairman of Loon’s board said in blog post that despite ground breaking technical achievements, “the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped.”

Founded in 2011, Loon aimed to provide internet connectivity to areas of the world where installing cell towers is expensive. However, the company hit financial roadblocks after wireless carriers questioned its viability.

“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,” Alastair Westgarth, CEO, Loon said in a blog post.

“Developing radical new technology is inherently risky, but that doesn’t make breaking this news any easier. Today, I’m sad to share that Loon will be winding down.”

While Loon successfully provided cell coverage in Peru and Puerto Rico after natural disasters, it failed to gain significant traction from other countries and international organisations.

Westgarth said Loon’s legacy would include finding ways to safely fly a lighter-than-air vehicle for hundreds of days in the stratosphere to anywhere in the world. It also made important technical contributions that would pave the way for more options in unlocking the full potential of the internet of things, he added.

Also Read: Google’s internet-providing balloons to be steered by AI

As Loon’s service comes to a halt, the firm pledged $10M to support non-profits and businesses focussed on connectivity, Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya, where it recently started a pilot project.

Loon will also explore options to take its technology forward with governments, NGOs and technology companies to provide internet access to fill the blank spots in the global connectivity map.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 4:57:20 AM |

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