Alphabet Inc. announced that it is closing Project Loon. This division was engaged in the development of a system of balloons that distribute the Internet. This is reported on the Google X blog, where all the experimental projects of the company are collected, as well as on the Project Loon blog.
The project is closed because the company was unable to achieve a sustainable business and to reduce to the proper level the cost of such Internet so that the project would be non-risky profitable.
We talk a lot about connecting the next billion users, but the reality is that Project Loon was chasing the hardest problem — connecting the last billion users. These are communities in areas that are hard to reach or too remote. Or are areas where providing services with existing technology is too expensive for ordinary people…
CEO of Loon
Project Loon will be phased out within six months. During that time, most of the employees will move to other structures at Google X, Google, or Alphabet. The remainder will be able to support the work processes already in place until the project closes for good. After that, these employees will also be transferred to other parts of the company.
The Loon project was launched in 2013. The company has set itself the task of providing Internet access to hard-to-reach places on the planet. That is, it is a kind of analog of Elon Musk’s Starlink. The difference between the two ideas is quite simple: Project Loon was based on balloons, which rise to the stratosphere (altitude from 11 to 50 km), and Starlink — a system of satellites that operate at an altitude of 350 to 600 km.
According to Project Loon, over the past nine years of the idea, the company has been able to solve many problems, including keeping and controlling aerostats in the air. The company was also able to make the equipment cheap and powerful. But apparently, it was not cheap enough to make the project profitable.
The Loon project only works in one place, Kenya. It was launched in the summer of 2020 and shut down a year later, in the summer of 2021. It used 35 balloons, which covered an area of 80 km2.
The Google X blog says that instead of Project Loon, the company will donate $10 million to develop the Internet in hard-to-reach places.