Kenya: Alphabet Shutting Down Loon, Ending Its Ambitious Partnership With Telkom Kenya

22 January 2021

Nairobi — Alphabet, Google's parent company, has announced the closure of its internet balloon business Loon, whose aim was to provide a less expensive alternative to cell towers.

In a statement, the firm's CEO Alastair Westgarth said that while they had found a number of willing partners along the way, the company had been unable to find a way to get costs low enough to build a long-term sustainable business.

Loon launched a pilot project in Kenya last year through a partnership with Telkom Kenya.

Westgarth said the intent of the Loon technology pilot was to help bridge the digital divide through the provision of 4G/LTE coverage using floating cell towers.

"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. 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 said.

The company's target areas were places that face difficulties to access and connect via terrestrial solutions, as well as in areas that were not commercially viable for service providers.

Commenting on the development, Telkom Kenya's CEO, Mugo Kibati said partnering with like-minded pioneers in the adoption and usage of innovative technologies such as Loon was very exciting.

He added that their vision, which was to connect unconnected and under-connected communities by inventing and integrating audacious technologies, matched with those of Telkom.

"Telkom remains cognisant of the integral role our core terrestrial network plays in keeping our customers connected. We continue with our long-term terrestrial network expansion plan, that is informed by our overall company strategy, which will see us scale up to 80 percent of our network to 4G, increase our network footprint across the country, and get more Kenyans online," Kibati said.

Loon will continue to provide service with Telkom in Kenya until March 1, this year. Over the coming months, the Loon team will work closely with Telkom to ensure the operations of the technology's pilot service are wrapped up safely and smoothly.

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