What was Project Loon?
Project Loon, Alphabet Inc’s balloon-Internet distribution project has shut down its operations as of January 2021.
The radical idea was first a part of Google’s ‘X’ division, that’s where they do all the crazy engineering things. It was in 2018, that Loon graduated as a division of its own.
Project Loon had secured several millions of dollars in funding from cash-rich Google.
The central idea was that balloons deployed in the stratosphere would be used to disseminate Internet using LTE. Loon brought the Internet over balloons in Kenya, Mozambique, it helped people access the Internet in rural Peru, which during the unfortunate earthquake it had witnessed, proved to be of great help to Disaster response teams and the people too.
What made Project Loon shut operations?
Loon’s CEO, Alastair Westgarth, wrote a heartfelt blog in which he explained why Loon is shutting down, the challenges they faced that made Loon’s commercial model unsustainable in the long-run.
While Loon was a crazy, well intentioned project which pioneered engineering from all of its aspects, it simply was too expensive to stand on its feet. Google’s funding had helped the company sustain itself for quite a few years. Loon even teamed up with the biggest telecom providers for their project.
What was the core problem, then? Commercial Viability.
Building a business model which is sustainable can be a tough task. Loon’s project was relevant & simple.
The gap between project loon’s viability and success was this:
For project Loon to be successful without monetising the service, they had to get as many users they could to use the service and then generate revenue out of their Advertising model (Google searches).
However, the countries which they’d identified that didn’t have LTE were largely poor countries. Poor countries with a low density of population, although serviceable, were not very profitable. Since the number of users onboarding the service was low, and lesser users means lower revenue , the project’s profitability was always questionable.
Unless someone could magically increase the density of users in an area, getting the costs down to a factor which makes it viable and profitable was not possible.
Let’s make an assumption:
Google’s operational costs relied on the number of users utilising the service. As the number of users was higher, they would generate more revenue.
Let us say that, Loon’s cost for disseminating LTE to a group of fifty thousand people per 1250 square kilometres of area was X amount of Dollars, assumed to be $10,000 in this case. Which makes it to be $0.2 per user.
Now, let us say that the number of users for the same area, drops to twenty five thousand. That brings up the cost to $0.4 per user.
Lower the number of users, higher the cost.
As the density of users goes on decreasing, the operational cost goes higher since they are both inversely proportional.
Loon was an ambitious, admirable effort which addressed the need of the user for the welfare of the people. Sadly, commercial viability drives sustainability. Loon failed to achieve that.
Hey, but should last-mile connectivity end there? Not really.
There are different solutions available to fix the problem of the lack of Internet. Sub-saharan Africa, where Loon deployed most of their solutions, still faces a huge shortfall in the number of users connected to the Internet. We can help the Internet reach far-corners of the world.
So, how exactly do we do that?
Space-based, satellite powered or LTE-based connectivity is something which is not alien to people. However, space-based satellite or LTE powered WiFi connectivity is something which people haven’t really heard of. Extensively, at least.
We’ve pioneered last-mile connectivity over WiFi.
From Nigeria to Bangladesh, last-mile connectivity over WiFi is not only a viable solution but one that can ensure seamless connectivity at affordable, cost-effective pricing.
We offer Internet connectivity solutions which allow you to set up Public WiFi hotspots, with the ability to cover your operational costs and a reasonable CapEx for making sure that you can build a long-term sustainable business out of WiFi.
We have partnered with many companies and acted as catalysts for delivering Internet connectivity to far-off corners and areas of the world.
So, what makes WiFi the better option?
WiFi-hotspot based dissemination of Internet focusses on targeting areas which are far smaller, thus stretching the internet to people only where it is profitable to do so.
With WiFi, Loon’s caveat of not having that privilege is solved. You can choose where exactly you wish to deploy your Access Points so as to maximise revenue, you have that privilege. You have the choice to concentrate your deployments to a very specific area, utilising and allocating your resources in the best possible manner.
We offer a satellite-backhaul based WiFi connectivity solution.
Eutelsat, one of the world’s leading VSAT connectivity providers over both Ka and Ku bands, teamed up with us to deploy WiFi hotspots across Nigeria, Ivory Coast and DR Congo. Indio’s WiFi Access Points are enterprise-grade and can deliver seamless Internet to over 128+ users at a time.
We partnered with Eutelsat to extend last-mile connectivity through the medium of satellite-backhaul WiFi. We built a unique product to use satellite backhaul for Wi-Fi hotspots, we integrated satellite modem and Wi-Fi access point in single, outdoor enclosure.
The entire setup was plug-and-play so the units could be deployed by any technician in the field.
A customised OSS/BSS and NMS solution was deployed at Eutelsat’s data center. The WiFi device integrated local storage, serves cached content to end users. Rural Bangladesh has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. We brought pervasive, last-mile connectivity to Bangladesh through the medium FTTH over WiFi.
Our WiFi-hotspot Internet distribution model is relevant, simple and cost effective. The operational expenses of our deployments can be easily cut down with monetisation.
WiFi-hotspot deployments allow you to monetise your network with ease, through which you can ensure that your deployments are commercially sustainable.
Direct monetisation options allow you to paywall services with a freemium model to drive revenue and increase RoI. Marketing and Advertising options, captive portals for authentication and access allow you to control access to your hotspot deployments.
The partner we worked with in Bangladesh has garnered a revenue of over 500K Taka in a very short span of time, breaking even by a decent margin and engaging in a profitable business model early-on.With our WiFi-hotspot based Internet distribution model, you can recover your CapEx and bring down your OpEx to profit generating margins with a short turnaround time.
The future is going to be connected. Satellite-based WiFi or 5G based WiFi will help us craft an entirely connected world. Being an important part of that future is what we want.