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Google bids adieu to giant internet balloons idea

GOOGLE’S parent-company Alphabet bids goodbye to Loon, a company set up to build giant balloons to beam the internet to rural areas.

Loon was a long-term experimental bet from the tech giant’s “X” business unit. It was set up nine years ago but has struggled to make a profit from bringing the internet to remote places via high-altitude balloons.

The balloons were the size of tennis courts and self-navigating. “While we’ve found a number of willing partners along the way, we have not found a way to get the costs low enough to build a longterm, sustainable business,” Loon chief executive Alastair Westgarth said.

Technology experts said one of the problems with Loon was that many people in rural areas could not afford the 4G phones that Loon required or weren’t interested in getting access.

“Developing radical new technology is inherently risky, but that doesn’t make breaking this news any easier. Today, I’m sad to share that Loon will be winding down.”

The scrapping of Loon comes one year after Alphabet shut down another experimental business called Makani, which provided wind power from gigantic kites.

These were part of a wave of eye-catching projects that helped to forge Google’s image as one of Silicon Valley’s most ambitious tech companies.