Google announced on Friday that high costs and low interest have dashed prospects for LOON, its prospective balloon-delivered wireless service business. According to Reuters, the parent company, Alphabet Inc., has determined the enterprise is not commercially viable.
“While we’ve found a number of willing partners along the way, we haven’t found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business,” said Loon Chief Executive Alastair Westgarth via blog post.
In earlier days, SoftBank’s HAPSMobile division saw the possibilities of the floating cell tower system and invested $125 million USD in its development. LOON had sought to bring wireless service to areas where cost, geography, or disaster response could benefit from the rapid deployment of balloon cell towers. Slow project development, and improvement of both earthbound and satellite signal delivery narrowed opportunities for the unwieldy balloons.
While the LOON system was proven to work, it has also been expensive, and difficult to manage. Strong winds in the air and the winds of politics on the ground made it challenging to keep balloons aloft. Westgarth noted that useful lessons were learned from LOON, and suggested that scaled back balloon delivered cell service could still have applications.
Declining to comment on its investment in LOON, HAPSMobile did say it would “continue to work toward our goal of developing a commercial business.” Though it has stepped away from LOON, Alphabet Inc. indicated it’s still committed to its Wing drone powered cargo delivery business.