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August 24, 2016

Former Viasat exec to head up Google’s Project Loon

News: Tom More is expected to push the project from research stage to commercial operations.

By CBR Staff Writer

Project Loon, Google X’s research project to bring broadband services to remote parts of the world through balloons, will now be headed by a new boss.

Current Project X lead and vice president Mike Cassidy will be replaced by Tom Moore, who co-founded WildBlue Communications which was acquired by ViaSat in 2009. He is expected to join Google in mid-September.

Mike Cassidy, who has been heading the project since 2012, will continue to be associated with Google X in new projects.

Project Loon plans to have a network of balloons to bring internet access to rural and remote places where traditional networks are limited or not possible.

Under the project, high speed internet is transmitted to the nearest balloon from Google’s telecommunications partner on the ground, which is then relayed across the balloon network, and subsequently back to users on the ground.

Project Loon claims to have achieved data transmission between balloons over 100 km apart and managed to provide data speeds of up to 10 Mbps, directly to users’ LTE phones on ground.

Project Loon, which has been conducting tests since 2013,  has partnered with several telecom operators including Vodafone in New Zealand, Telstra in Australia and Telefonica in South America.

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At present, Google has the capability to launch a balloon every 30 minutes from its Puerto Rico launch pad.

Google X head Astro Teller said: "Under Mike's scrappy, entrepreneurial leadership, Loon moved from science project to viable venture, and Tom's valuable industry experience will help launch us into the commercial stage of this moonshot."

Google has been hiring people from large corporations, when it wants to turn an experimental project into a commercial venture.

Last year Google hired John Krafcik, an executive from Hyundai to head its autonomous driving project and now it is Tom Moore. It should also be noted that in this process, few of its key executives quit Google.

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