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Alphabet shuts down Loon internet balloon company

2021-01-22 18:29 by
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Alphabet is shutting down Loon, its division that provides internet from floating balloons, according to a post on the blog of Alphabet's X moonshot division.

"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," he said. "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."

Loon was launched in 2011 as one of Google's moonshot projects — experimental ventures which try to solve big problems — and was turned into an independent company in 2018. The idea was to provide internet access to areas that are remote or have poor infrastructure using balloons that sail at about 65,000 feet of altitude. And though Loon did have some success in those nine years — mostly in providing emergency access to areas that were struck by catastrophe — it is now shutting down.

Loon launched a pilot project in Kenya in 2020, years behind schedule after regulatory delays. The technology previously proved successful in short projects to provide cell coverage in Peru and Puerto Rico when cell towers were downed by natural disasters. The company had pitched countries and international organisations on contracting with Loon to fly in during future emergencies, but gained little traction.

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