Google hired Tom Moore, co-founder of satellite-based broadband service provider WildBlue Communications, as vice president of its research division X and general manager of the ambitious Project Loon.
Moore, who starts his new job in September, has been involved in the development of video, voice and data broadband technology for the satellite, wireless and cable television industries for some years.
During the 1990s, he helped create patented technology supporting the DOCSIS (data over cable service interface specification) cable modem and co-founded WildBlue Communications to extend this technology into the satellite market and make the benefits of broadband available to millions of homes in the US that would not receive it otherwise.
Moore’s background syncs with the ambitions of Project Loon, through which Google wants to use balloons to provide high-speed internet connectivity. It has so far been tested by operators such as Telefonica, Telstra and Vodafone.
It uses high altitude balloons that fly freely 20 km above the earth’s surface, serving as floating mobile phone towers.
Mike Cassidy, who has run Loon since 2012, will remain at the X lab to develop new research projects.
“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,” Astro Teller, head of X, said in a statement.
“We’re looking forward to working with telcos around the world to integrate Loon with their networks,” he added.
The move is part of Google’s strategy “to bring in an industry veteran with commercial experience that mirrors other efforts at [parent] Alphabet to turn ambitious, risky research projects into profitable businesses,” according to Bloomberg.
Last year, the company took on John Krafcik, the former head of Hyundai Motor America, to lead its car project.
Moore said, “The world needs fresh approaches like Project Loon, which can help overcome terrestrial obstacles like mountains and jungles, and has made far more progress than anyone would have expected.”
X also revealed its balloons have travelled more than 17 million kilometres, with many staying airborne for more than 100 days, and that a test site in Puerto Rico can launch a balloon every 30 minutes.
In May it was reported that India’s government is expected to allow Google to run a four-day pilot test of Project Loon.
Back in March, Cassidy told Mobile World Live commercial deployment of the company’s ambitious Loon project is “getting close”, as scepticism around the technology begins to disappear.