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Alphabet’s Loon deflates

Alphabet’s progressive Loon project is shutting down across the globe after nine years of exploration and final pilot.

According to the company, the project’s roadmap to commercialisation was not fruitful as it had 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 (Google’s innovative projects) within Alphabet,” said Astro Teller, lead at X.

Teller added: “Sadly, despite the team’s groundbreaking technical achievements over the last nine years - doing many things previously thought impossible, like precisely navigating balloons in the stratosphere, creating a mesh network in the sky, or developing balloons that can withstand the harsh conditions of the stratosphere for more than a year - the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped.”

The company had launched balloons to server countries such as Kenya, New Zealand, Peru and Puerto Rico.

Its idea was to bring internet access to the next billion in such regions with internet balloons in the stratosphere that would emit internet signals over a wide area.

In Kenya, the company was given the green light to operate in Kenyan airspace at the onset of the COVID-19 induced restrictions. Telkom Kenya was selected to partner with Loon locally.

Mugo Kibati, CEO at Telkom Kenya, said: “It was very exciting, therefore, to partner with like-minded pioneers in the adoption and usage of innovative technologies such as Loon, with the aim of filling in the Internet access gaps in areas that were difficult to service. Their vision – to connect unconnected and under-connected communities by inventing and integrating audacious technologies – sat well with our mission, to provide the best value for a simpler life, efficient business and stronger communities

Kibati added that the company would focus on their 4G rollout which it will scale up to 80% in the coming days.

Loon will continue to provide service with Telkom in Kenya until 1 March 2021.

Over the coming months, the Loon team will work closely with Telkom to ensure the operations of the technology’s pilot service are wrapped up safely and smoothly.

Going forward the company will pledge a fund of US$10M to support nonprofits and businesses focussed on connectivity, internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya.

Moreover, X’s 20Gbps optical communication beam, Taara Project, will continue its work in Kenya aiming to bring affordable high-speed internet connection.

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