Google parent company Alphabet said in a statement that it is shutting down Loon, a pioneering project of stratospheric communications that aimed to expand internet access worldwide.
The project, spun out of Alphabet’s “X” business unit, was unveiled in June 2013 and had plans to bring abundant affordable Internet access. Loon afterward became an independent company within Alphabet in 2018 and launched its first commercial internet service in Kenya in July, comprising of a fleet of about 35 balloons covering an area of around 50,000 square kilometers.
Loon had hit financial troubles recently, according to a November report by The Information. The report noted Loon executives’ top goal for 2020 was to secure its second round of external investment.
“The road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped,” Astro Teller, who leads X, wrote in a blog. “In the coming months, we’ll begin winding down operations and it will no longer be an Other Bet within Alphabet.”
He also said Loon would pledge $10 million to “support nonprofits and businesses focussed on connectivity, Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya.”
“Sadly, despite the team’s groundbreaking technical achievements over the last 9 years, the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped,” Teller added.