At a time when SpaceX Starlink launch is the most discussed topic in the tech world, the shutting down of Alphabet Loon is not so surprising for experts.
The Global Satellite Internet space has a new king and an old one is set to retire. Ahead of the 18th successful Starlink launch by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Google parent Alphabet announced the plan to wrap up Loon LLC. On Thursday evening, Google’s Moonshot project is announced to be winding down after a nine-year-long run. Popularly known as Loon LLC, the Alphabet subsidiary had planned to provide an internet connection to the inaccessible and rural areas through their internet balloon model. An ambition which now has new takers in the market.
Initiated by X (formerly known as Google X) project Loon was designed as a research and development project. Loon started its journey as an individual company in July 2018 but is ready to shut its door soon. All the internet balloons under the Loon network are deployed into the Stratosphere between 18 km to 25 km of altitude. These balloons then float to the desired wind layer identifying it with direction and speed using the data received from NOAA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A special antenna stays attached to buildings of the users to connect to the balloon network.
These balloons can navigate themselves with the help of available data from NOAA. These super-pressure helium balloons can rise about 12 m tall and 15 m wide when inflated. These balloons are equipped with an array of robust solar panels estimated to generate about 100-watt power under full sun. This project came under spot-light in 2017 when Google helped to restore the cell and network services in Puerto Rico after the island was hit by a massive hurricane.
The Rise of Starlink and Fall of Loon
Even with the best technology and futuristic approach, Loon has struggled to gain the turn out from the project. In his latest blog post, one of the leading minds in Intelligent Technology, British American scientist-entrepreneur Eric “Astro” Teller expressed sadness at the fact that the team had to make the “difficult decision to close down Loon” as the “road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped”, despite the initiatives “groundbreaking technical achievements”.
But at a time when SpaceX Starlink launch is the most discussed topic in the tech world, the shutting down of Alphabet Loon is not so surprising for experts.
With the increasing popularity of SpaceX and their collaboration with NASA, the competition to gain control of the market was becoming harder for Alphabet each day. SpaceX is currently aiming to deliver 10GBps internet speed over their satellite internet system. According to their last update to FCC on their current status of Starlink, the company’s pointed out that their current system can deliver 10MBps internet speed to users. SpaceX is currently supplying a broadband connection to the rural areas of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Reports also state that Starlink will receive $886 from FFC to improve broadband connection in rural areas.
Watch: SpaceX Starlink, Explained
The New Doyens of Satellite Internet
With the new approval to enter the internet satellite sector, another tech giant Amazon has started its campaign to establish its footing in the market. In one of his recent tweets, Elon Musk has addressed the issue with Amazon and SpaceX.
As the two companies join the market, the shutting down of Loon comes out relatively inevitable. Followed by the announcement of this shutdown, the firm revealed in another blog post that Loon pledges a $10 million fund to support non-profit organizations and businesses working with connectivity, education, entrepreneurship, and the internet in Kenya.