Alphabet is shutting down Loon, its division that supplies internet from drifting balloons, according to a post on the site of Alphabet’s X moonshot division.
“The road to commercial viability has shown considerably more and riskier than anticipated,” Astro Teller, that directs X, wrote in the blog. “In the coming months, we’ll begin winding down operations and it will no longer be another Bet within Alphabet.”
The parent firm of Google launched Loon in June 2013, and Loon”graduated” from a moonshot to an independent company within Alphabet in 2018. Loon established its first business internet service in Kenya in July, comprised of a fleet of about 35 balloons that covered an area of around 50,000 square kilometers. Loon has also provided internet services to regions affected by natural disasters, deploying balloons to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and also to Peru following an earthquake in 2019.
Teller says that Loon is working to place employees in different areas at X, Google, and Alphabet. “A little set of the Loon team will remain to ensure Loon’s surgeries are wrapped up easily and safely — that involves twisting down Loon’s pilot service at Kenya,” according to Teller. Loon’s service in Kenya will run until March, an X spokesperson tells The Verge. To support those in Kenya who could be impacted by the loss of Loon’s service, Loon is pledging $10 million to support nonprofits and companies in Kenya committed to”connectivity, Web, education, and entrepreneurship.”
Loon is not the only moonshot that Alphabet has shut down. It wound up Makani, which aimed to utilize wind turbines attached to kites to create renewable electricity, annually. And Project Foghorn, which investigated the way to make clean fuel from seawater, finished its work in 2016.
What happens next
In a separate blog post, the company said it had vowed a fund of $10 million to support nonprofits and businesses dependent on connectivity, internet, entrepreneurship, and education in Kenya.
Alphabet also plans to take a number of Loon’s technology forward and discuss what it heard from this moonshot notion along with other people.
Additionally,” a number of Loon’s technologies — such as the large bandwidth (20Gbps+) optical communication links which were first used to beam a link between balloons bopping from the stratosphere — already resides in Project Taara. This team is now working together with partners in Sub-Saharan Africa to bring the affordable, high-speed net to unconnected and under-connected communities starting in Kenya,” the firm said.
Scores of firms including Google and Facebook have scaled-down several of their connectivity attempts lately after many developing nations such as India that they targeted solved their online problems on their own.
Additionally, it has become clear that subsidizing net access to countless millions of possible users is not the most sustainable method to acquire customers.