Kenya’s mobile phone operator, Telkom Kenya and Google’s Loon Services on Friday announced that the Loon technology pilot will be discontinued from March 1.
Telkom Kenya and Loon said in a joint statement issued in Nairobi that the drastic move follows the announcement that Loon is being wound down as a company, globally.
The duo launched Loon as a pilot commercial service in Kenya in July 2020, proclaiming “a new era of stratospheric communications had begun.”
But Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said Friday the company had failed “to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business.”
The Loon technology pilot was to help bridge the digital divide through the provision of 4G/LTE coverage using floating cell towers, in areas that were difficult to access and connect via terrestrial solutions, as well as in areas that were not commercially viable for service providers.
Loon’s giant, transparent plastic balloons are powered by solar panels and navigated using artificial intelligence systems that allow them to ride high-altitude winds to ideal locations, or loop in patterns that create consistent webs of internet coverage in the sky.
“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,” said Loon’s CEO, Alastair Westgarth.
“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,” he added in a statement.
Over the coming months, the Loon team will work closely with Telkom to ensure the operations of the technology’s pilot service are concluded safely and smoothly.
“Telkom believes in taking bold decisions, said Telkom Kenya’s CEO, Mugo Kibati. “It was very exciting therefore, to partner with like-minded pioneers in the adoption and usage of innovative technologies such as Loon, with the aim of filling in the Internet access gaps in areas that were difficult to service. Their vision – to connect unconnected and under-connected communities by inventing and integrating audacious technologies – sat well with our mission, to provide the best value for a simpler life, efficient business and stronger communities.”