Google’s parent company- Alphabet- has pulled the plug on one of its zaniest ideas to date- Loon. Loon, if successful, would have seen large balloons circling the globe, tasked with beaming the Internet down to hard to access areas in the form of 4G. For a while, the project seemed entirely viable, and at times, remarkably successful. Loon had previously succeeded in providing Peruvians with the Internet following a major earthquake, and to Puerto-Ricans post-hurricane. Whereas the benefits offered by Loon were undeniable, since then the availability of a stable internet connection via a secure wi-fi connection has risen from 75% to 93% globally. The remaining 7% of ‘wi-fi-less’ areas consist of areas in which residents are unable to afford the 4G phones that Loon would serve, or are otherwise uninterested in the Internet.
Loon CEO, Alistair Westgarth noted in a blog post that ‘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. 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.’
Looking to the Future...
So, what will happen to Loon’s resources? In a separate blog post, Alphabet pledged $10 million to support non-profit organisations and businesses focused on connectivity, Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya. Moreover, Alphabet plans to take some of Loon’s technology forward, and share what it has learned from the project with other companies. Moreover, the Loon team is already working with partners in Sub-Saharan Africa to bring affordable, high-speed Internet to unconnected and under-connected areas across the continent, beginning with Kenya. Whilst we won’t be seeing large balloons hovering in the skies anytime soon, the technological advancements achieved by Loon continue to positively impact the global community.