Boingo expands Wi-Fi offload trial to include 5M handsets

Boingo Wireless has expanded its Tier 1 carrier offload trial to include millions more handsets using its Passpoint-enabled network. The company is not revealing the identity of the carrier.

"I'm pleased to announce that, based on the success of their market trial, we've extended our agreement with the Tier 1 carrier and have gone up to 5 million handsets auto connecting" to Boingo's managed and operated (M&O) Passpoint-enabled network that reaches half a billion people, said Boingo CEO Dave Hagan in the company's fourth-quarter earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

"We expect to sign a long term deal soon to enable them to expand to cover their entire smartphone customer base," he said. "This is a milestone we have been working toward for years, and we believe it's just the first step in what's to come."

Hagan also noted that more mobile data traffic is traveling over Wi-Fi than cellular, and that's expected to accelerate over the next several years. Wi-Fi First products led by startups like Republic Wireless and FreedomPop are amplified by heavyweights such as Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), he said. These services also will leverage Hotspot 2.0 and Passpoint to make Wi-Fi as seamless as cellular roaming, a key mission for the Wi-Fi community.

Hagan said the company started the trial with a couple million handsets and expanded that to 3 million at the end of last year. Now, it's up to about 5 million handsets that are coming from the carrier's customer base. As customers walk into one of Boingo's venues, the system automatically connects their devices to Boingo's network so the end-user doesn't have to do anything. The plan is to expand to more big venues like airports and stadiums.

"We are seeing very nice ramp up in traffic in those venues where we've been in for a period of time, the traffic continues to increase," he said. "It becomes very quickly a significant part of traffic within that single venue. Again, because everybody from that carrier's customer base who walks into the venue is--100 percent of them are connected or very close to 100 percent, at least ones with a smartphone."

"At this point, the traffic is flowing, we're encouraged by the results, the technology is working as expected and the customer response has been very positive," he said.

Operators like T-Mobile and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) are eyeing Licensed Assisted Access (LAA)-LTE, also known as LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U), which would need to coexist with Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band. Asked about how that technology could affect Boingo, Hagan said it will be interesting to see how it develops. "We're certainly plugged into those discussions," he said. "I think the overall belief and premise here is, more bandwidth gets consumed, right? So there's an insatiable demand and desire for more bandwidth, and we don't see LTE-U being anything that's negative to our business."

For more:
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript
- listen to the webcast (reg. req.)
- see this press release

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