Google Loon Balloon Web Service Taps Board to Lift Business

(Bloomberg) -- Loon, the balloon-borne rural internet service from Google parent Alphabet Inc., has recruited three wireless-industry leaders to help the company’s yearslong effort to get the business off the ground.

Wireless pioneer and Nextel Partners Inc. co-founder Craig McCaw, former Verizon Communications Inc. executive Marni Walden, and Ian Small, a former Telefonica SA executive, will serve as Loon’s new three-member advisory board. They’ll help the fledgling company sign on partners and expand to new areas.

Loon started as a project inside Google’s X research arm to deliver internet access to rural areas. As of last year, it planned to offer service in Kenya. Using antennas held aloft by large balloons 12 miles (20 kilometers) above Earth, well beyond the paths of airplanes, Loon can beam coverage over a wide area and relay the signals to ground stations operated by wireless carriers.

When first conceived, Loon was considered a potential threat to wireless carriers, but in recent years the company has wooed established providers as partners. Other companies including Facebook Inc. have been working on ways to get more people connected to the internet. Instead of balloons, Facebook has tested solar-powered drones and satellites.

“We quickly realized that as a business with the mission of connecting people everywhere, our path to success is to partner with those who have significant experience connecting people every day,” Loon Chief Executive Officer Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post on Tuesday.

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