Skift Take

Airports with decent Wi-Fi are becoming more common than those without it. Boingo's new partnership with a major U.S. carrier will hopefully take airport Wi-Fi even further towards a seamless experience.

Fresh off its partnership with Sprint at 35 U.S. airports Boingo Wireless is bringing on a second major U.S. cellular carrier to help make travelers’ airport web surfing faster and more convenient.

Boingo CEO David Hagan made the announcement during the company’s second quarter earnings call on August 4, but was hazy with most of the details. Hagan did not specify which new carrier Boingo is joining up with and the company would not clarify when Skift asked for comment.

The new carrier is already live and offloading Wi-Fi at one major U.S. airport, Hagan said during the call, and Boingo is working with the carrier on a roll out schedule for more airports. Wi-Fi offloading, which is what Boingo did with its Sprint partnership, involves cellular carriers such as Sprint or AT&T offloading data onto Wi-Fi networks that would otherwise be used on cellular networks and take up bandwidth.

Los Angeles-based Boingo provides Wi-Fi to more than 60 airports representing more than 50 percent of North America’s top 50 busiest airports and more than 30 percent of the world’s top 30 busiest airports.

Hagan also said Boingo has awarded the wireless rights to seven new U.S. airports but wouldn’t specify which ones. Boingo is already live in airports such as Chicago’s O’Hare, Los Angeles and New York’s JFK International Airports.

Boingo Adds Voice Calling

The company added voice calling over Wi-Fi as a result of the Sprint partnership, “We learned a lot,” said Hagan. “We did a lot of hardening of the network. We weren’t planning on having voice as a part of it.”

“We did some network densification in areas where you are having the volume of handsets connecting with so much more than what we had had in the past. So, we feel like the network is really ready for this implementation.”

Boingo is also looking to deepen its technology with this new carrier to make airport web browsing experience better, “This allows a carrier to enable Wi-Fi offload without being beholden to the device manufacturer…. We are going to investigate what we would call a layer two integration which is more of a direct network to network interface with the carrier, that’s a great thing for us. It is more challenged I think from an industry scale perspective.”

“From a technology perspective it is no different assuming we go down the path of Passpoint which is what we are doing in the first airport and we will continue to roll out airports under the Passpoint methodology. So, if this carrier wanted to connect into Wi-Fi networks all over the place it would be a lot more work on their part.”

Hagan expects the process of adding more airports with this new carrier to take several months, “We’re still big supporters of Passpoint because it scales better at an industry level, but see this as potentially attractive alternative to some carriers.”

The company reports that, on average, Boingo Passpoint subscribers connect to Wi-Fi three times more often and stay connected three times longer than average users at airports. The auto-authenticating Boingo Wi-Fi connections have been available to Sprint smartphone customers at no additional charge and usage of Boingo Wi-Fi does not count towards the Sprint customer’s monthly service plan.


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Tags: boingo, wifi

Photo credit: Travelers use Wi-Fi on their smartphones at Miami International Airport where Boingo Wi-Fi is available. Boingo announced it's joining up with another major U.S. carrier at airports. Dan Peltier / Skift

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