Boingo plans to push NFV and SDN across 'majority' of its Wi-Fi networks this year

LAS VEGAS -- Boingo Wireless said that roughly 20 percent of its Wi-Fi networks in U.S. airports sport NFV elements, and the company said it expects to expand that rollout to a majority of its networks this year.

Here at the CES event, Boingo CTO Derek Peterson said that the company is using the technology to make its network easier to manage. By moving to a centralized, virtualized network design, he said the company can more easily reconfigure its network and deploy new services.

Boingo's NFV effort is tied into the company's so-called "S.M.A.R.T. Networks" approach. Announced in 2014, Boingo describes S.M.A.R.T. (Secure, Multiplatform, Analytics-Driven, Responsive and Tiered) Networks as "a revolutionary new approach to providing public Wi-Fi access in airports and other large-scale venues."

"NFV and SDN are part of our S.M.A.R.T. network strategy," the company said in a statement to FierceWirelessTech. "Roughly 20% of our airport networks now have NFV elements and we plan for the majority of our networks to be transitioned as part of our S.M.A.R.T. rollouts in 2016."

Boingo's Peterson explained that the company cobbled together its NFV approach from a variety of sources. He said the company designed some of its own technology for the effort, obtained some from open source offerings, and used vendors for other elements. For example, he pointed to the company's announcement last year that it would use Procera Networks' PacketLogic/V NFV solution to manage the consumer experience at its wireless hotspot locations; Boingo is using a virtual CPE solution from Procera to shape network traffic and apply granular profiles that deliver multiple classes of service as part of its S.M.A.R.T Network offering.

The result, Peterson said, is a control box that Boingo can install in its network that allows the company to centrally manage and govern its network. The company is already using the technology to remotely offer tiered service plans ranging from 5 Mbps to 50 Mbps in a handful of its U.S. airport networks.

Boingo's efforts in virtualization also extend into the company's data center. Peterson said that 90 percent of the company's data center is virtualized, and that 60 percent of its network processing functions are conducted in the cloud, rather than locally.

Boingo sells its own Boingo-branded Wi-Fi services across roughly 1 million public Wi-Fi locations. The company also sells its Wi-Fi hotspots to other companies and service providers; for example, last year Sprint (NYSE: S) said it would offload its wireless traffic in 35 U.S. airports to Boingo's hotspots. Boingo also builds small cell, DAS and Wi-Fi networks in locations ranging from stadiums to universities to military bases.

In the third quarter, Boingo reported revenue of $37.2 million, up 20.6 percent over the same quarter a year ago. The company's net loss widened to $4.8 million, above the $3.8 million it reported in the year-ago quarter.

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