Google’s Project Loon, solar-powered internet balloons discontinued

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Alphabet’s internet balloon Project Loon will be coming to an end on March 1, 2021, as the Google parent firm found no commercial viability in the project. 

Loon was operating in Kenya in Iten, Eldoret, Baringo, Nakuru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho, and Narok in partnership with Telkom Kenya and covered over 50,000 sq.km.

In a statement, Loon’s CEO, Alastair WESTGARTH said: “Loon would not have been possible without a community of innovators and risk-takers who were willing to take a chance on us and build something the world has never seen before. While we’re sad to share that Loon’s journey is coming to an end, we are grateful to the Telkom team for their vision and partnership.” 

Loon will continue to provide service with Telkom in Kenya until March 1, this year. 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. 

The intent of the Loon technology pilot was to help bridge the digital divide through the provision of 4G/LTE coverage using floating cell towers, in areas that were difficult to access and connect via terrestrial solutions, as well as in areas that were not commercially viable for service providers. 

Telkom Kenya’s CEO, Mr. Mugo KIBATI says:

“Telkom believes in taking bold decisions. 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. 

Launched in 2013 Project Loon aimed at distributing wireless internet connections from solar-powered helium balloons 20km above the Earth.  Loon started with a pilot project in New Zealand, then California and eventually Puerto Rico and Peru and finally in Kenya where it signed up Telkom as a commercial partner. Its exit is leaving behind Project Taara which uses high-speed wireless optical link technology to improve wireless connections in remote areas. Loon is also leaving behind a $10 million fund to help nonprofits and SMEs in Kenya with connectivity, internet, entrepreneurship and education.