Just when you think it may be dead in the water (or plummeting to earth), Loon pops up (probably not the best choice of words) with some more news on its quest to connect people in remote areas with broadband delivered via balloon.
In case you haven’t heard of it, Loon involves the use solar powered balloons making up an aerial wireless network capable of delivering internet connectivity to users on the ground in underserved areas and disaster zones.
In July last year, X (which was formerly called Google X) announced Project Loon had been spun off as a separate business under the Alphabet umbrella. Alphabet is a holding company that was created in the restructuring of Google back in 2015.
Since being spun off from X, there had been little news from Loon, except for a post in July regarding the delivery of services in Kenya starting this year, and one in September from Head of Engineering Salvatore Candido relating to some of the technical wizardry behind Loon.
However, there’s been some very recent movement at the station.
Alastair Westgarth, CEO of Loon, posted on Medium earlier today that a new Advisory Board has been established consisting of wireless innovators with decades of experience in the sector.
The Board will initially consist of:
Craig McCaw: among his activities during a 30 year career in communications, Mr. McCaw was Chairman and CEO of McCaw Cellular Communications, which was sold to AT&T Corporation in 1994.
Ian Small: previously global Chief Data Officer and a member of the executive committee of Telefónica S.A., one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies.
Marni Walden: more than two decades of experience in the wireless industry.
“With their collective expertise and wisdom, Craig, Ian, and Marni will help guide and advise us as we work to partner with MNOs around the world and advance our mission of connecting people everywhere,” said Mr. Westgarth. (MNO stands for Mobile Network Operator).
Perhaps we’ll now hear more and more often from the Loon team going forward.
What About Altaeros?
Another broadband via balloon type project we’ve mentioned in the past – this one broadband via blimp – is the Altaeros SuperTower, an autonomous helium-filled aerostat platform project that aims to deploy high-speed mobile broadband in rural markets at a fraction of the cost of other solutions.
The last news published by the company was in October 2018, when U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairperson Ajit Pai held discussions with the company regarding Altaeros SuperTower and challenges facing rural connectivity – so it seems things are still moving along there as well.