Recent years have seen a push to beam internet from the sky down to Earth. While solutions such as StarLink are proving to be viable, other projects closer to Earth haven’t.
The latest project to be shuttered is Alphabet’s Loon. Loon was meant to beam internet down to Earth through a series of balloons floating above us. We say “was” because Loon chief executive officer Alastair Westgarth has announced the project is over.
“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,” Westgarth wrote in a blog, “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.”
Sad as this is, CNBC points to the fact that Loon has had financial troubles in recent years. In its Q3 earnings report for 2020, Alphabet reported Other Bets generated $178 million in revenue but in contrast showed an operating loss of $1.10 billion.
As for the teams working on Loon, Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots at X, Alphabet’s experimental solution division, says that X is working to move employees to new roles at Google, Alphabet and X.
“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. Although Loon is going away, our commitment to connectivity isn’t. Today we’re pledging a fund of $10M to support nonprofits and businesses focussed on connectivity, Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya,” Teller wrote in a blog.
We’re sad to see Loon go but we’re curious to see whether Alphabet pursues connectivity from another angle. This might seem like a wild idea but perhaps firms like Alphabet could direct their funding to existing projects such as building out mobile connectivity.
Shooting for the moon is admirable but if you keep missing, perhaps it’s time to aim a bit closer to home.