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KATHMANDU: Alphabet is shutting down Loon, its division to make high-speed internet more accessible using solar-powered balloons. “The road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped,” Astro Teller, who leads X, wrote in the blog. “In the coming months, we’ll begin winding down operations, and it will no longer be an Other Bet within Alphabet.”
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, launched Loon in June 2013, and Loon started out under Alphabet’s experimental projects, group X, before spinning out as a separate company in 2018. It had been tested in Kenya, New Zealand, and Peru. In 2017, the project deployed balloons to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the region, knocking out cellphone towers.
Despite some successful deployments, it seems that Loon was never able to find a sustainable business model. “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,” Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth wrote in a blog post.
Astro Teller says that Loon is working to place employees in other roles at X, Google, and Alphabet. “A small group of the Loon team will stay to ensure Loon’s operations are wrapped up smoothly and safely — this includes winding down Loon’s pilot service in Kenya,” according to Teller. Forbes
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