AT&T, Boingo ink international Wi-Fi roaming deal

AT&T (NYSE:T) and Boingo Wireless announced a reciprocal Wi-Fi roaming deal that will give AT&T subscribers access to Boingo's global network of Wi-Fi hotspots in major international airports. Additionally, Boingo customers traveling in the United States will get access to AT&T's Wi-Fi hotspot network throughout the country, including at airports, restaurants, sporting arenas and retail locations.

As part of the deal, AT&T customers who use the carrier's Wi-Fi International app can get access up to 1 GB of Wi-Fi each month at no additional charge. However they must also be signed up for AT&T's "Data Global Add-On with Wi-Fi" package, which runs $60 per month for 300 MB  and $120 per month for 800 MB.

Boingo said its Wi-Fi hotspots at major international airports are available to AT&T customers today, with service continuing to expand throughout 2013. The agreement could help AT&T customers reduce their international roaming charges if they offload their traffic to Wi-Fi.

T-Mobile USA, partnership with parent Deutsche Telekom and iPass, launched its "Global Corporate Access" Wi-Fi solution in October 2011 for enterprise customers. The solution provides authenticated customer online access and support to more than 570,000 domestic and international hotspots regardless of device manufacturer, platform or network. Further, the solution offers a single login for up to five devices per subscriber, including smartphones, tablets and laptops, for one flat-rate monthly fee.

A Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) spokeswoman said "although this is something that we are looking into, we do not currently have an international Wi-Fi plan available to customers."

Representatives from Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) did not respond to a request for comment on the carrier's international Wi-Fi efforts.

Earlier this year AT&T said it recorded more than 2.7 billion connections to its Wi-Fi network in 2012. The carrier said the figure is more than double the number it recorded in 2011. Perhaps more importantly, AT&T also said it saw three times more mobile device traffic, over 5.2 billion MB, exchanged on its Wi-Fi network in 2012. The carrier said 40 percent more connections were made in the fourth quarter of 2012 from smartphone and tablet devices compared with the fourth quarter of 2011.

Both AT&T and Boingo are members of the Wireless Broadband Alliance and are participating in the WBA's Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) trials for seamless Wi-Fi roaming. The WBA's seamless and secure cellular-to-Wi-Fi roaming initiative likely will not launch commercially until early 2014, and when it does AT&T is likely going to be a leading player, Christian Gunning, vice president of corporate communications at Boingo, recently told FierceBroadbandWireless.

The NGH program is designed to do several things, both for end users and for carriers. For customers, their phones will be able to jump onto the best network available, whether that be Wi-Fi or the cellular macro network, without them having to actively switch networks. 

For carriers, the benefit is, in theory, two-fold from a Wi-Fi offloading perspective. Under NGH protocols, Passpoint-certified phones that access Passpoint-certified network equipment will know which cell tower they are connected to. Carriers can set rules that would push cellular traffic from the macro network onto NGH Wi-Fi hotspots if a phone is connected to a congested tower. Secondly, carriers will be able to cut down on roaming costs.

For more:
- see this release
- see this AT&T site
- see this separate AT&T site
- see this The Verge article

Related Articles:
AT&T notches 2.7B Wi-Fi connections in 2012
Boingo exec: Enhanced cellular/Wi-Fi roaming to launch commercially in 2014
AT&T, others pass first hurdle in WBA's global Wi-Fi roaming effort
AT&T's SIM-based Wi-Fi roaming sets stage for Hotspot 2.0
AT&T, Boingo Wireless will help WBA foster Wi-Fi roaming

Article updated April 11 with comment from T-Mobile and Sprint.