Google’s parent firm, Alphabet is shutting down Loon, its internet balloon company – 6 months after launching in Kenya.
In a blog post announcing the developments, Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth said that the decision to shut down the business came after failing to find a sustainable business model and partners for one of its most prominent moonshot projects.
“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.”
The company launched its first in non-emergency use of Loon to provide connectivity on a large-scale basis in Kenya, the first application of balloon-powered internet in Africa.
Loon partnered with Telkom Kenya, Kenya’s third-largest carrier to launch a fleet of 35 balloons in an area that spans nearly 50,000 square kilometres across western and central parts of the country, including the areas of Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, Narok and Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
The company has previously provided internet connectivity in the emergence of disasters in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and after the 2019 earthquake in Peru.
In a separate blog post, the company said it has unveiled a fund of US$10 million to support nonprofits and businesses focused on connectivity, Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya.