Alphabet shuts internet balloon company

Alphabet is letting the air out of its balloons for good. Google’s parent company said Thursday it’s shutting down its Loon business that used helium balloons to offer internet connectivity.

Alphabet said it couldn’t cut costs deep enough to make it commercially viable.

The original aim when it was founded in 2011 was for Loon to bring connectivity to areas where it’s too pricey or treacherous to build expensive cell towers. Loon was already years behind schedule when it launched a pilot project in Kenya last year. Its local partner said it’ll end that service in March.

In the end, surging demand for mobile service made towers cost-effective in more of the world than Alphabet had originally estimated. A balloon costs tens of thousands of dollars and lasts only about five months.

Loon says it leaves behind a legacy that includes helium balloons that last hundreds of days in the skies and communications equipment that deliver cell coverage across an area 200 times larger than that reached by an average cell tower.

Video Transcript

- Alphabet is letting the air out of its balloons for good. Google's parent company said Thursday it's shutting down its Loon business that used helium balloons to offer internet connectivity. Alphabet said it could not cut costs deep enough to make it commercially viable. The original aim, when it was founded in 2011, was for Loon to bring connectivity to areas where it's too pricey or treacherous to build expensive cell towers. Loon was already years behind schedule when it launched a pilot project in Kenya last year. Its local partner said it'll end that service in March.

In the end, surging demand for mobile service made towers cost-effective in more of the world than Alphabet had originally estimated. A balloon costs tens of thousands of dollars, and lasts only about five months. Loon says it leaves behind a legacy that includes helium balloons that lasts hundreds of days in the skies, and communications equipment that delivers cell coverage across an area 200 times larger than that reached by an average cell tower.