Alphabet Shuts Giant Balloon Firm Meant to Provide 4G Internet to Kenya’s Rural Areas

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has announced it will discontinue a pilot project aimed at providing internet access to remote areas in Kenya from March.

The move comes six months after the project kicked off.

Alphabet had set up a company, Loon, nine years ago, to build giant balloons bringing the internet to remote places in the East African country.

The internet-enabled balloons were to provide 4G internet service so people could make voice and video calls, browse the web, email, text and stream videos.

Loon’s CEO, Alastair Westgarth, in a statement, said the project failed to make costs low enough to make it sustainable.

Experts linked Loon’s problem to rural dwellers inability – or willingness – to afford the 4G phones that Loon required.

Loon, however, wasn’t a total failure as it signed a major deal with a Kenyan telecommunications company, Telkom, to bring 4G to remote parts of the country.

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.”

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