Boingo Wireless expects to go live with carrier No. 2 for its Wi-Fi offloading service in the first half of next year, CFO Peter Hovenier said during an investor conference.
The Wi-Fi aggregator earlier this year announced Sprint (NYSE: S) as its first Wi-Fi offload customer, and it has been earnestly working to get more carriers on board. "There's a ton of activity going on," Hovenier said at the Credit Suisse 19th Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., adding that "we are highly confident and believe we will have carrier No. 2 live in the first half of next year."
Hovenier also said company management is highly confident that when wireless carriers embrace Wi-Fi offloading in a big way, they will need to work with Boingo for access to real estate like the World Trade Center and O'Hare airport. "They may do some trials with other players as well, that doesn't mean we're going to be exclusive, but when they use our networks, it's exclusive."
Under Boingo's deal with Sprint, up to 40 million of the carrier's handsets were to be configured to auto-authenticate with Boingo Wi-Fi hotspot connections at no additional charge. Prior to launch, Boingo conducted trials and tests for about a year, and those kinds of tests are now going on with other carriers and companies.
Does Boingo have the infrastructure and capacity already in place to handle the increased volume from other operators? "The work we're doing with Sprint benefits everyone," Hovenier said. Wi-Fi networks historically were built for laptops, then they shifted to mobile phones. "Now we're actually working with mobile phones and thinking about voice over IP and voice over Wi-Fi, which is a very different use case."
During its trials with Sprint, a use case that came up was having a voice over Wi-Fi call while a person is walking through an airport terminal. Even up until a year ago, dropping packets was not a big deal, but that's problematic if you're on a voice call, he noted. Boingo is working with Sprint on voice services in different locations and "being very thoughtful about this, because to them, if there's a quality issue," the consumer will blame Sprint, not Boingo.
Regarding the second carrier, "things are going quite well. We are in tests with this customer" and like Sprint, this customer is very focused on network quality. They're looking at the user experience and how the network works throughout the locations, looking to see whether they are freeing up spectrum. Hotspot 2.0 and Passpoint, which add seamlessness and security into the equation, are very important as well, but "we're still very early in that industry" and there will be a better handoff experience in the future. "It's good today, but it's going to get better," he said.
Hotspot 2.0/Passpoint is an industry-wide solution launched in 2012 to streamline network access and eliminate the need for users to authenticate a network every time they want to connect. The whole experience is designed to be more like cellular so that users can automatically and securely connect while on the move.
Upgrades to Boingo's network are ongoing; the big capital will be spent in the first half of next year, and after that, the focus will be on more backhaul. With voice over Wi-Fi in particular, that means adding more access points throughout venues.
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