Boingo CEO says 5G represents big opportunity

airport (Pixabay)
Boingo now powers wireless networks in more than 45 major airports.

LAS VEGAS—The first 5G specification was ratified by 3GPP just before the holidays, but already, 5G is creating buzz, and that’s not lost on the chairman of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), host of the CES 2018.

David Hagan (Boingo)
Boingo CEO David Hagan (Boingo)

“It’s a big upgrade cycle for us,” said Boingo Wireless Chairman and CEO David Hagan. “It will be an opportunity to overlay the new technology” in the stadiums and other venues where Boingo manages networks.

Some of the talk during CES involved how 5G can enable sports stadiums to be outfitted with the kind of technology that would offer fans a different way to experience events, like seeing the plays on the field or court from different angles as if they were one of the athletes.

The idea is that fans might use virtual reality (VR) goggles, ideally smaller than many existing models today, to experience events in new ways. The venues where such events are held are the very ones where Boingo has wireless networks.

The challenge today with VR or with 360-degree video capabilities is the incredible amount of computing power and robust wireless networks that are required.

“5G is going to be critical to enable those kinds of capabilities,” Hagan told FierceWirelessTech on the sidelines of CES 2018.

RELATED: For Boingo, 5G is all about convergence

Broadly speaking, 5G is not well understood, he said. Everybody is talking about it but not everyone knows how to define it. Part of that has to do with the fact that it’s still being defined by 3GPP. There will be early 5G implementations by the end of this year—Verizon and AT&T have talked about their plans—but the true 5G that a lot of people are talking about won’t be finalized until midyear.

Meanwhile, Boingo has been busy deploying Wi-Fi infrastructure on military bases where it’s won that business. Military also represents a small cell opportunity; while Boingo can serve operators with carrier offload, it can also deploy small cells on their behalf, and it’s in discussions with multiple carriers on that front.

RELATED: Boingo now has carrier offload on 13 military bases, testing multicarrier small cells

Aside from the military work, Boingo is offering Wi-Fi offload services to two U.S. carriers. Sprint was the first, but the company has been coy about naming the other one, although sources told FierceWireless the other is likely AT&T. The company isn’t making any predictions when it comes to carriers No. 3 or 4, but it has said it’s a question of when, not if, other carriers will get on board.

Airports continue to be a source of business. Boingo now powers the wireless networks at more than 45 major airports, including now at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu, which launched just before the holidays.

The company, which considers itself to be the largest provider of indoor Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) in the world, said during its third-quarter earnings call that it had launched carrier offload services on 13 military bases.