Alphabet abandons its idea of balloons beaming high-speed internet

Alphabet, the parent company of Loon, has abandoned its idea of beaming high-speed internet in remote parts of the world through a fleet of balloons.

Loon, a nine-year-old project, appears to be coming to an end.

The reason is that the firm failed to find a sustainable business model to bring one of its prominent moonshot projects to life.

This comes a year after Google Station ceased its operations.

The aim of Google Station was to provide internet connectivity at over 400 railway stations in India.

After that, the company sought to do the same in other nations around the world.

The demise of Loon comes as a surprise though as the firm had just obtained approval from the government of Kenya, which it needed to provide commercial connectivity services in the country.

In 2019, Loon raised $125m from a SoftBank unit.

The company saw its calling in providing connectivity to underserved and unserved regions around the world.

Alastair Westgarth, the chief executive at Loon, said in a blog post that the company was able to find a number of willing partners, but getting the costs low enough for it to be a viable business model turned out to be an insurmountable challenge.

The Loon team views their efforts as a success though.

Westgarth said that the company has made “a number of important technical contributions”.

The company revealed in a separate blog post that it had pledged a fund of $10m for the purposes of supporting Kenyan businesses and nonprofits focused on the following areas:

  • Internet
  • Connectivity
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Education

Some of the technology already lives on in Alphabet’s Project Taara, which has the aim of bringing affordable, high-speed internet to communities in Kenya.