Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has recruited some well-known and experienced industry veterans to help get its wireless broadband project Loon to market.
On Tuesday, the company announced that Craig McCaw, founder of McCaw Cellular, one of the first cellular companies in the US that was sold to AT&T in 1994, will be one of its founding members of a new advisory board. Marni Walden, a former marketing executive with Verizon, and Ian Small, who worked as chief data officer for Telefonica and is now CEO of Evernote, will also serve on the advisory board.
Project Loon, started in 2016, uses high-flying balloons powered by on-board solar panels as Wi-Fi carriers to deliver signals from above. Alphabet spun out Loon in July from X, the division of Alphabet responsible for its most experimental projects, including self-driving cars, internet-connected contact lenses and delivery drones.
The company said previously it was planning a commercial launch of Loon later this year. Thus far, the balloons have only been used in testing, and deployed for emergency relief, as in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
In preparation for that launch, Loon’s CEO Alistair Westgarth said in a blog post that the company intends to partner with mobile network operators throughout the world. The idea is that Loon can help these wireless carriers expand internet coverage and attract new customers. In order to do that, Loon needs to add “some serious expertise to our ranks with a new Advisory Board that brings together top wireless innovators with decades of experience in the industry,” he said.
Loon has already struck at least one partnership deal with Telekom Kenya to help the African carrier extend its reach to hard to reach parts of the country where reliable communications connections are absent.
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