Technology New world. Google abandons its internet balloon project

New world. Google abandons its internet balloon project

Model of a balloon from the Loon project by Google presented in Canterbury (New Zealand). Illustrative photo. (MARTY MELVILLE / AFP)

It was an ambitious project of the “X division” of Google (or rather of the Alphabet group). Balloons inflated with helium, the size of a tennis court, released into the stratosphere, to act as relays and provide an internet connection to remote territories or areas of natural disasters. Project manager Eric “Astro” Teller just announced in a blog post that the project is coming to an end.

The first balloons were launched in 2013. Powered by solar energy, they had an autonomy of several months and could cover an area of ​​11,000 square kilometers, 200 times more than that of a usual 4G relay antenna. For example, the balloons were used after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, and after an earthquake in Peru in 2019.

Technically, Loon was a good project, but unfortunately not profitable enough. Balloons are proving too expensive to deploy while keeping prices low, the official explains. A first commercial offer was launched last year in Kenya, but it did not give the expected results, obviously. That said, Loon isn’t completely dead. It gave birth to other initiatives, such as the Taara project, an internet connection system using laser beams over great distances.

Behind these initiatives lies the great concern of some digital giants, which is to connect what they call “the next billion internet users”. But it’s not easy. Google also recently abandoned a solar drone project. We could also talk about Facebook’s project, which also skates quite a bit. According to some, like Bill Gates, many developing countries undoubtedly need something else, as a priority, than internet connections.

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