Alphabet draws a line on Loon, a project that has enabled people in remote areas to access the internet. Google's parent firm came to this decision after finding that the project is not commercially viable.
“ While we found a number of willing partners along the way, we didn't find a way to bring costs down enough to create a long-term sustainable business. Developing radical new technology is inherently risky, ”said Alastair Westgarth, Managing Director of Loon, in a blog post published on January 22, 2021. Alphabet will be shutting down operations in the coming months.
“ A small group of the Loon team will remain to ensure operations end smoothly and safely, ” said Eric Teller, director of Google X labs.
Loon, a successful project?
Loon has come a long way since its launch in 2013. According to Westgarth, “ Loon has tackled the most difficult connectivity problem of all – the last billion users. Communities located in areas too difficult or too remote to reach, or areas where providing services with existing technologies is just too expensive for ordinary people ”.
The project has already proven its worth in countries like New Zealand, Kenya and Peru… What happened in Puerto Rico after the destructive passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017 considerably increased Loon's notoriety. Thanks to the stratospheric balloons it deployed, the Alphabet company was able to help partially restore the mobile telephone services of this island.
Other ongoing connectivity-focused projects
Although Alphabet has ended Project Loon, the company is not leaving the telecommunications industry for good. The US tech giant is currently working to provide affordable broadband internet access in sub-Saharan Africa.
Called Taara, the project operates using Loon's high-bandwidth (20 Gbps +) optical communication links.
Alphabet further plans to " create a $ 10 million fund to support nonprofits and businesses dedicated to connectivity, the Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya ."