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 Alphabet announced a new advisory board and said one of the founding members will be Craig McCaw, who started McCaw Cellular. McCaw Cellular was one of the first cellular companies in the US and was sold to AT&T in 1994. Also serving on the new 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.
Project Loon, started in 2016, uses solar-powered balloons as Wi-Fi carriers to deliver signals from high above. In July, Alphabet spun out Loon 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 been used in testing, and deployed for emergency relief, as in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
In preparation for the commercial launch, Loon CEO Alistair Westgarth said in a blog post, 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. To do that, he said, 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."
Loon has already struck at least one partnership deal, with Telekom Kenya, to help the African carrier extend its coverage to hard to reach parts of the country where reliable communications connections are absent.
CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.
The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.