Alphabet’s Project Loon business has stacked a newly formed advisory board with telecom veterans to help commercialize the stratospheric balloon internet technology through partnerships with mobile network operators worldwide.
Officially launched in 2013, Loon is an innovative project that deploys large balloons affixed with antennas into the stratosphere to deliver LTE-connectivity using shared spectrum to people in rural and remote areas.
In 2017, the FCC cleared Project Loon to help re-connect wireless and internet communications in hurricane-ravaged areas of Puerto Rico. Working with AT&T and various agencies, the project moved balloons across the island to deliver emergency communications services.
In a Medium post, Loon’s CEO Alastair Westgarth said since concluding the technology actually does work, the next step is partnering with MNOs, which have vast experience bringing connectivity to billions of users globally.
“With Loon’s technology, we see a valuable opportunity to help MNOs reach more people in areas that have been difficult or impossible to serve,” Alastair wrote. “Loon is an infrastructure solution that will allow MNOs to expand their networks and attract new customers.”
To assist with those efforts, Loon has brought in “some serious expertise,” Alastair said.
The new advisory board includes wireless heavy hitters including Craig McCaw, who started and ran McCaw Cellular, which was built into a leading wireless company that was acquired by AT&T in 1994.
“I’ve spent a lifetime working on technology to break down barriers so people don’t have to be confined to large metropolitan areas to communicate with one another and the broader world. In my view, leveling the playing field is both a moral and practical imperative for our future,” McCaw said.
Ian Small, CEO of Evernote, is also on the board, and was previously global chief data officer and on the executive committee of Telefónica S.A.
“I first encountered Loon while working at Telefónica, where I was responsible for evaluating how a service like Loon could fit into an existing MNO like Telefónica across its many geographies and the variety of economies it encompasses,” Small said. “I have been incredibly impressed not just with the technology itself, but with the Loon team’s ability to continuously confront and solve a massive variety of technical and business problems in their ongoing quest to deliver a compelling commercial business model for connecting people anywhere.”
Marni Walden, a former top executive at Verizon as EVP and president of Global media and New Business, is bringing two decades of wireless industry experience to Project Loon.
“Loon holds a lot of promise for mobile network operators, providing a flexible and cost-effective solution to help reach new customers and better serve existing ones,” Walden said. After decades in the