Google internet balloon project has been killed, along with Vodacom deal in Mozambique
- Google parent company Alphabet has shut down Loon, which produces solar-powered balloons that bring internet to remote areas.
- Last year, Vodacom struck a deal with Loon to expand internet access in Mozambique.
- Project Loon started as one of Alphabet's moonshot projects.
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Alphabet's decision to shut down Loon, which was founded by Google and hoped to make internet more accessible using solar-powered balloons, has also ended a deal with Vodacom to expand internet in rural Mozambique.
“Vodacom Mozambique will regrettably no longer be able to proceed with its internet balloon project further to Alphabet's closure of Project Loon,” the company said on Friday.
Loon produces balloons capable of flying high up in the stratosphere while enabling internet access down on Earth. The mobile, floating stations were praised for being more flexible than typical cell stations, as they're constantly moving, and for having much wider coverage areas, as much as a hundred times that of a cell tower.
Vodacom and Loon entered into an agreement in May last year which would have allowed the mobile operator to provide 4G service to two of Mozambique’s most underserviced provinces; Cabo Delgado and Niassa.
“We remain committed to the acceleration of rural coverage in Mozambique and are exploring alternative options for this purpose,” Vodacom said.
Project Loon started as one of Alphabet's moonshot projects at its experimental division Google X (which became "X"), home to other outside-the-box ideas like Google Glass, self-driving car startup Waymo, and drone delivery firm Wing. Loon span out from X in 2018 and was categorised as one of Alphabet's "Other Bets."
X has yet to see any of its ideas hit the mainstream, and Alphabet has shut down other projects connected to the division, such as power-generating kite firm Makani and fuel alternative Project Foghorn.
In a blog post published on Thursday, the director of Google's X division Astro Teller said Alphabet had made the "difficult decision" to close the firm down. "We're working to take care of employees and hope to help many find alternative roles at X, Google and Alphabet," he wrote.
Additional reporting by Martin Coulter, Business Insider US
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