Loon, which has used the giant balloons to broadcast the Internet to people in remote areas around the world, announced that it is ending its operations.
Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth explained that the company’s business model was ultimately unsustainable. “We found a number of partners willing to work with us, but we didn’t find a way to cut costs enough to build a long-term sustainable business,” he said.
Astro Teller, who leads the semi-secret R&D firm X Development, wrote: The road to commercial viability has proven much longer and more risky than expected, andIn the coming months we begin to close operations and Loon will not be another bet within Alphabet.
The Loon project was born in 2011 with the early prototype, the company went through years of testing, and in 2018 it split from X Development to become an independent subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.
The Loon project launched its first commercial internet service in Kenya in July. The project consists of a fleet of around 35 balloons covering an area of about 50,000 square kilometers.
The project also provided internet services to areas affected by natural disasters, deploying balloons in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017 and Peru following an earthquake in 2019.
Teller says the project is moving employees to other positions in X Development, Google and Alphabet.
According to Teller, a small group from the Loon team remains to ensure the smooth and safe end of operations, and this includes termination of trial service in Kenya.
Loon’s service in Kenya will run through March, a spokesperson for X Development said.
To support those who may be affected by the loss of Loon’s service in Kenya, the project is pledging $ 10 million to support nonprofits and businesses in Kenya dedicated to communication, internet, entrepreneurship and education.
It is noteworthy that Loon is not the first project to be closed by Alphabet, as last year the company canceled Makani, a project that was intended to To use wind turbines attached to kites to generate renewable electricity.
In 2016, Alphabet also completed the Foghorn project, which looked at how to produce clean fuels from seawater.