What IS Boingo, Anyway?


I have a confession to make. I like to chat it up. So when I was vacationing with my family last week in Washington DC and someone struck up a conversation, I didn’t shy away. While I was standing in a restaurant waiting for a table, I was mistaken for a grad student as there happened to be an MBA mixer going on that evening. Even though my cover was quickly blown when my 9 year old asked me when we were going to be seated (again), the student and I kept talking. He asked me about what it was like to be a “grown up” and about my line of work. After I convinced him to never grow up, I told him about my career in marketing and about Boingo. He said Boingo sounded familiar, so I took this golden opportunity to evangelize!

I asked him what he knew about Boingo and he said, “Is it Wi-Fi in airports?” That’s usually the response most people give – and for good reason. Boingo operates the Wi-Fi network at more than 70 major airports worldwide. In fact, 60% of all North American passenger traffic goes through an airport where Boingo runs the Wi-Fi network.

But airport Wi-Fi connectivity is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to Wi-Fi, Boingo also builds and operates cellular networks in many airports, as well as stadiums, universities – even places like the World Trade Center. These cellular networks, called DAS (Distributed Antenna System) enable your mobile phone to get connected at places that have a lot of “people density” or would otherwise be too large for a traditional cell tower to penetrate. Whether you have cell service from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon, if you’d made a call at an airport, you’ve more than likely used a Boingo cellular network to make that call.

In addition, one of the most exciting parts of our business is an area called Wi-Fi offload. As cellular networks grow more and more congested due to the number of mobile devices on the network and high-bandwidth activities like streaming video, the cellular networks can’t keep up. Wi-Fi offload enables carriers to move traffic off of their cellular network and onto a Wi-Fi network to help ease congestion. Earlier this year we announced a major, long-term deal with a Tier 1 carrier to provide Wi-Fi offload on up to 40 million handsets in 2015. This is a game changer!

In addition to airports, Boingo also boasts a network of more than one million hotspots worldwide as places like hotels, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and more. Every single day, thousands of people get connected at a Boingo hotspot.

These days, some our biggest “hotspots” are military bases. Boingo offers blazing-fast Wi-Fi and TV service to soldiers, airmen and Marines at more than 30 bases throughout the U.S., covering more than 130,000 beds – and that number will double in 2015. Our military plant now covers more than 500 miles of fiber, 650 buildings, and 29,000 Access Points (APs). To put it in perspective, if you stacked that many APs on top of each other, it would reach the height of the Empire State Building ten times over!

As I shared with my new friend the MBA student, all this reach has created a new revenue opportunity for Boingo, as well. According to a survey by J.D. Power & Associates, free Wi-Fi is the number one most requested traveler amenity. Our advertising and sponsorship team, Boingo Media, offers brands the opportunity to sponsor complimentary Wi-Fi in the venues we serve. Consumers get 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi in exchange for 30 seconds of captive, “lean forward” engagement with the advertiser’s message. We’ve built the world’s largest Wi-Fi advertising network to meet this demand.

As you can see, Boingo is a lot more complex than just an airport Wi-Fi operator! At the conclusion of our chat I gave my new MBA friend a pop quiz. Let’s see if you can get it right too.

What is the correct answer to the question, “What is Boingo?”

  1. A network of more than 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots
  2. A Wi-Fi and cellular network operator
  3. The world’s largest Wi-Fi media network
  4. A cable TV and high-speed Internet provider – without the cables
  5. All of the above

If you answered E, give yourself an A+!

About Jay Pearson

Jay is Consumer Marketing Manager for Boingo Wireless. He is responsible for all marketing tactics and social media associated with Boingo's customer-facing products. When not working or attending one of his kid’s activities, he enjoys running and biking at the beach, hunting for old German cars and rooting for the UCSB Gauchos and Arsenal F.C.
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