Loon remote internet balloon project grounded

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has axed the Loon internet balloon project; an endeavour to bring internet connectivity to remote areas around the globe with stratospheric balloons.

The project was pulled by Alphabet due to high costs making a long-term, sustainable business unsustainable. Loon made stellar progress in breaking the stratosphere flight record and covering 50,000 square kilometres of Kenya with internet coverage.

Alaistair Westgarth, CEO, Loon, said in a blog post: "We talk a lot about connecting the next billion users, but the reality is Loon has been chasing the hardest problem of all in connectivity — the last billion users: The communities in areas too difficult or remote to reach, or the areas where delivering service with existing technologies is just too expensive for everyday people. 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.

"Working side-by-side with governments and global aviation and communications regulators to showcase and enable these new technologies, we found ways to safely fly a lighter-than-air vehicle for hundreds of days in the stratosphere to anywhere in the world. We built a system for quickly and reliably launching a vehicle size of a tennis court, and we built a global supply chain for an entirely new technology and business. We also scaled up our communications equipment from technology that could have been made in a college dorm room (literally: WiFi routers inside styrofoam beer coolers), to a communications system capable of delivering mobile internet coverage over an 11,000 square kilometer area — 200x that of an average cell tower."

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