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Boingo Drops 15 Airports

In what looks to be a either a major loss or a negotiation ploy, Boingo has notified Advanced Wireless Group (AWG) of the termination their roaming agreement that impacts 15 airports. With Boingo entering the advertising supported space, the two are now head to head in competition for airports and ad revnue, and until the ad-network sharing can be sorted out, and how that relates to money, this type of problem will only likely get worse for the traveler. 

I say this because up until T-Mobile started getting out of the Hotspot business the combination of accounts with both they and Boingo pretty much gave travelers the kind of access they needed in airports and hotels, along with coffee shops. But now with T-Mobile basically out, Boingo losing major airports, and AT&T not really putting fast enough pipe into airport locations quickly enough to keep up with demand (the acquired Wayport a few years ago to address this) I'm seeing a massive slowdown. Recently at Philadelphia International Airport (an AT&T location) I was lucky enough to get LTE coverage as the Wi-Fi speeds were in the hundreds. 

In SFO my Boingo experience didn't differ from the free experience, so while I logged on with one device using Boingo, and another using the free airport service, the premium experience being offered to roaming partners, which was designed to offer better speeds and no ads, simply was ad free, but no speed increase, and the only speed benefit was the speed of logging on using Boingo credentials vs. having to "register" each time. 

To me, or any business traveler using Boingo or iPass expects their service levels to be better than the freeloader. Unfortunately, the recent experiences I saw would not require customer to maintain a paid account from either iPass, AT&T or Boingo to get access to a premium service that isn't there.  Boingo was offering a convenience for their subscribers, and since its free and not the Boingo grade of experience, why should they have to support their customers who are having a less than expected Boingo experience in airports they don't manage or can't deliver a better grade at a premium price.

If it isn't obvious yet, the main wireless carriers in the USA, Verizon and AT&T, are hoping for more of this fragmentation as it will only drive people over to LTE, where consistency will reign. My guess is AWG is hoping to get bought up by Verizon or AT&T, as history has shown by their exiting of the sector that neither T-Mobile nor Sprint, both pioneers in the Wi-Fi hotspot location game, have the appetite to stay in what could have been the icing on the cake of Wireless access.

AWG operates the Wi-Fi access in some key airports, including Atlanta-Hartsfield (ATL), Baltimore-Washington (BWI), Boston-Logan (BOS), Buffalo (BUF), Burbank (BUR), Indianapolis (IND), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami International (MIA), Minneapolis (MSP)*, Oakland (OAK), Omaha (OMA), Providence (PVD), San Diego (SAN)*, San Francisco (SFO), Sacramento (SMF) and The Prudential Center (Boston). They were one of the first hotspot operators to explore a paid and ad supported model. 

My experience with AWG hotspots has been somewhat mixed. In SFO the log on process for Macs has sometimes been frustrating, and the same when using the Boingo mobile client on iPhones and iPads depending on terminals and locations. In LAX the experience is also variable. Previously in SFO the T-Mobile managed service worked like a charm, but as T-Mobile has been exiting the mobile hotspot market (a very big tactical mistake on their part with the rise of Wi-Fi offloading and their scarce spectrum resources) AWG has been picking up airports. AWG also has been taking over management of airports who had previously chosen to go on their own (as evidenced by their new agreement with San Diego's Lindbergh Field)

All of the above said, I don't think Boingo is out of the fight, and they still have the largest footprint, but as more landlords smell money, Wi-Fi access rights are going to become like billboard signage rights along major thoroughfares. Hotly contested and wanted.


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Helsinki and Stockholm airports have free, no-ads Wi-Fi that works. The cost to the airport can't be that high, and it's just good customer service, like free toilets. I don't see any reason for this to spread.

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