Boingo ‘very engaged’ with DoD and 5G on military bases: CEO

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With fewer people in airports, Boingo has seen revenue associated with advertising and Wi-Fi drop. (Getty Images)

Boingo Wireless, which offers wireless connectivity on military bases across the country, remains engaged with the Department of Defense (DoD) as it examines new ways to use spectrum, according to Boingo’s CEO Mike Finley.

Asked about Boingo’s activities with the DoD, “we’ve been very engaged,” he told Fierce. “Obviously our presence across all the military bases is going to be a solid foundation for us,” and it’s working with organizations like the National Spectrum Consortium and the Information Warfare Research Project.

The DoD released an RFI in September where it asked questions about 5G on military bases. Today, just a day after Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper was fired, the DoD said its focus on 5G involves large-scale experimentation and prototyping. Five installations are being used as a 5G test bed.

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In an interview on Monday, Finley said he applauds the DoD’s desire to stay focused and be a leader in 5G. Asked if Boingo was sharing a formal response to the DoD’s recent RFI about 5G, a Boingo representative replied that Boingo’s RFI and RFP activity has been “strong in 2020 and this includes our military business.” But if the company replied to this specific RFI, it hasn’t made its response public.

“We think we’ll be well prepared to deliver, in this case, what the military needs or the DoD needs. It’s always been a good relationship,” Finley said.

RELATED: Boingo wins DAS contract with San Diego State University

Boingo started out as a Wi-Fi supplier at airports across the country, but it began diversifying years ago to add other venues for distributed antenna systems (DAS) and military bases to its repertoire. It’s developed into somewhat of a technology-neutral entity in that it’s involved in Wi-Fi, DAS, Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) and 5G, to name a few.

The company now boasts that it delivers “tailor-made” services in more than 2,000 buildings across more than 60 Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, FBI and Homeland Security Training Center locations worldwide.

Boingo also has rights to build towers on military bases, a business that appears to be in the early stages. The company hasn’t disclosed how many towers are on its road map.

“We can be pretty expeditious in getting sites up,” Finley said, noting that on the bases, there’s a combination of macro towers, small cells and in some cases, towers that exist on bases that it can rebuild or operate on behalf of.  

Boingo, which reported third-quarter results on Monday, has been particularly hard hit in its retail and advertising business due to COVID-19. Its advertising and other revenue decreased 64% in the third quarter of 2020 compared with the third quarter of 2019.

Revenue overall in the quarter was $58.8 million, a 9.2% decrease versus $64.7 million in third quarter of 2019. Net cash provided by operating activities of $18.2 million decreased 34% compared to $27.7 million in the second quarter of 2020 and decreased 62.1% compared to $48.1 million in the third quarter of 2019.

RELATED: Boingo's global Wi-Fi connections decline nearly 80% in Q2 as travel stalled

On the flip side, it continues to win deals and it's been able to get some work done in venues that are seeing lower traffic during the pandemic. A number of airports are undergoing remodeling, Finley noted.

A couple years ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York selected Boingo to design, build and operate wireless services for the Long Island Rail Road Atlantic Branch and Grand Central Terminal East Side Access facility.

That work is continuing, and Boingo did that deal before having a carrier signed on as an anchor tenant. It has not yet announced any carriers for the MTA network; CFO Peter Hovenier said during the earnings call that they expect to have a carrier live on that in the fourth quarter.

As for a potential sale of all or part of the business, there’s nothing new on that front. Earlier this year, Boingo acknowledged it was seeing engagement from multiple parties, a situation that is ongoing.

The strategic review process is continuing. “We want to do what’s in the best interest of our shareholders,” Finley said, adding that in all fairness, “we’re really focused on the day to day” business. With Monday’s news from Pfizer about a vaccine, people are more hopeful that things can get back to normal. 

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