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Google continues retreat from connectivity… or does it?

Project Titan

Google’s parent company Alphabet has confirmed it will be shutting down its drone business unit Titan in favour of more cash-friendly alternatives.

The Titan business unit, which was brought into the X research lab last year, promised to use drones to deliver internet connectivity to remote areas, as well as delivering imagery to enhance other platforms such as Google Maps. The move was initially reported by 9to5Google this week, but a company spokesperson has said the decision was made in early 2016, due to other propositions being more economically attractive.

“The team from Titan was brought into X in early 2016,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We ended our exploration of high-altitude UAVs for internet access shortly after. By comparison, at this stage the economics and technical feasibility of Project Loon present a much more promising way to connect rural and remote parts of the world. Many people from the Titan team are now using their expertise as part of other high flying projects at X, including Loon and Project Wing.”

Loon, a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, is one of the initiatives which has been deemed more attractive to deliver connectivity. What will be interesting to see is how much of the investment and resource is redirected towards the other connectivity projects at Google, or whether this is indeed an active retreat away from the connectivity business.

Early this week, we reported Google was selling its satellite business to start-up Planet. Combined with the shelving of Google Fiber towards the end of last year, it did appear the Google team is cooling its ambitions in the connectivity world to focus on more core and established revenue earners. The end of Titan supports this theory, though should an appropriate level of investment be directed towards Loon and Project Wing, it could appear to be nothing more than a reprioritization of investments in the connectivity game.

The truth in the matter will come out in the coming weeks and months, the earnings call on January 26 will provide more clarity, though traditional ISPs can breathe a little easier knowing one of the world’s most successful and aggressive companies isn’t banging quite as hard on the door.


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