The Loon internet project is being canceled, as Alphabet stated that they simply cannot find a feasible path to commercial viability, and it isn’t for lack of trying. This was a project aiming to bring internet connectivity to rural and remote areas around the globe, using balloons at an altitude of 18 km to 25 km to beam data that support internet speeds of up to 1Mbit/sec.
For the best part of the last decade, the Loon team worked feverishly, pushing forward with groundbreaking technical achievements, solving novel and highly complex problems like the true pioneers that they were. Still, if you can’t find a realistic way to bring all the amazing stuff to the communities that need it, shutting down is the only choice that remains even if it’s a particularly difficult decision to take.
The project is running a pilot program in Kenya, with 35 balloons sending internet from the stratosphere down to the African country, covering very remote areas that could have never imagined the concept of internet connectivity through fiber.
Although the plug is being pulled, Kenya will continue to be served by Loon internet until March 2021. If $10 million is raised, the balloons will stay in the skies for longer, supporting nonprofits, businesses, educational institutes, and entrepreneurship centers in the country.
This is a very unfortunate end for one of the noblest tech projects of recent times, but beaming internet to remote, inaccessible areas is far easier when done from outside the atmosphere using CubeSats.
Balloons operate in a harsh and dynamically changing environment, and Loon has had at least 17 balloon crashes since 2014, some right into power lines. Also, mid-band frequency interference is a problem that’s hard to deal with when using 2.4 GHz ISM bands.