As it winds up operations, Loon sets up $10 million fund to support Kenyan nonprofits from select sectors

Technology pilot with Loon is set to come to an end on March 1, 2021. The development comes following the announcement that Loon is being wound down as a company, globally.

In the blog post published today- January 22, 2021, Loon stated that “despite the team’s groundbreaking technical achievements over the last 9 years…, the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped.”

“So we’ve made the difficult decision to close down Loon. In the coming months, we’ll begin winding down operations and it will no longer be an Other Bet within Alphabet,” stated Loon.

However, even as the firm winds up operations globally, a small group of the Loon team will stay to ensure operations are wrapped up smoothly and safely, this includes winding down Loon’s pilot service in Kenya.

“Although Loon is going away, our commitment to connectivity isn’t. Today we’re pledging a fund of $10 million (about Kshs 1.1 billion) to support nonprofits and businesses focussed on connectivity, Internet, entrepreneurship and education in Kenya,” announced Loon in the blog post.

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, in areas that were difficult to access and connect via terrestrial solutions, as well as in areas that were not commercially viable for service providers.

Loon’s CEO, Alastair Westgarth says: “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.”

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.

Telkom Kenya’s CEO, Mugo Kibati says: “Telkom believes in taking bold decisions. It was very exciting therefore, to partner with like-minded pioneers in the adoption and usage of innovative technologies such as Loon, with the aim of filling in the Internet access gaps in areas that were difficult to service. Their vision – to connect unconnected and under-connected communities by inventing and integrating audacious technologies – sat well with our mission, to provide the best value for a simpler life, efficient business and stronger communities.

Kibati adds: “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% of our network to 4G, increase our network footprint across the country, and get more Kenyans online.”


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