Alphabet is Closing Down the Loon Project

Image sourced from MIT Technology Review

Alphabet is shutting down its balloon-powered mobile Internet service, Loon. The project’s main objective was to bring abundant, affordable Internet access to unconnected communities around the world.

“When we unveiled Loon in June 2013, we meant everything in its name. It was a way-out-there and risky venture,” says Astro Teller, X lead.

“Sadly, despite the team’s groundbreaking technical achievements over the last 9 years — doing many things previously thought impossible — 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.”

Teller goes on to say that most of the Loon team will be moving on and hope to find alternative roles at X, Google and Alphabet.

“A small group of the Loon team will stay to ensure Loon’s operations are wrapped up smoothly and safely — this includes winding down Loon’s pilot service in Kenya.”

Balloon-Powered Internet Service in Kenya

In 2020, Alphabet and Telkom Kenya announced the launch of its balloon-powered mobile Internet service is available and covers more than 50,000 sq.km of the country with a fleet of 35 balloons – specific areas include Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho and Narok.

According to the companies, this was the first balloon-powered internet to launch in Africa and the first non-emergency commercial deployment in the world.

“Although Loon is going away, our commitment to connectivity isn’t. We’re pledging a fund of $10M to support nonprofits and businesses focussed on connectivity, Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya.”

Edited by Jenna Delport
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