Boingo Goes Metro

By Ed Sutherland

December 01, 2004

The longtime hotspot aggregator will be able to extend its footprint now to the sometimes citywide hotzones being built with mesh equipment from Tropos.

Boingo Wireless, a brand long associated with hotspots, is making the leap to metro-scale Wi-Fi hotzones. Boingo today announced a pact with metro-scale builder Tropos Networks creating the MetroZone Pilot Pack.

"The large coverage area and indoor/outdoor nature of metro Wi-Fi services broadens the appeal of wireless Internet access for both today's laptop devices and tomorrow's Wi-Fi-based phones and consumer electronics," says Dave Hagan, Boingo president and CEO.

The partnership with Boingo means "a giant leap toward making seamless Wi-Fi ubiquity possible worldwide — a huge opportunity for our service provider customers and mobile users," according to Ron Sege, Tropos president and CEO.

The partnership follows interoperability testing to ensure the Tropos hardware could be integrated with the Boingo Roaming System.

"Municipal network operators can install Tropos equipment knowing it is 'Boingo ready'," according to a prepared statement.

Although Boingo is already involved in metro-scale Wi-Fi, the pilot package "puts the seal of approval" on the concept, according to Boingo's Colby Frank. The company hopes the announcement clears up "some confusion in the marketplace."

The Boingo relationship makes it "easy to flip the switch" on future metro-scale Wi-Fi deployments, according to the two companies.

The two companies describe the MetroZone Pilot Pack as "a turnkey Wi-Fi solution for localized areas of up to one-half square mile." Although the pack starts small, the offering can be quickly enhanced to support larger installations.

The pilot pack allows municipalities interested in exploring metro-zone Wi-Fi "to get their feet wet," says Brad Day, marketing spokesman for Tropos.

The pilot pack includes a hotzone gateway from Pronto, five Tropos 5110 outdoor Wi-Fi cells, a 100-user license for Pronto's Operations Support Systems hotzone management software, and one year of technical support.

The Tropos Wi-Fi cells create a wireless mesh system using the company's Predictive Wireless Routing Protocol (PWRP) for coverage, reducing by up to 95 percent the need for traditional wired backhaul.

The Boingo connection means subscribers to the hotspot aggregator, including those from Boingo's Platform Services partners, can seamlessly roam onto metro-scale networks built using the Tropos package. Non-Boingo users will still need to pay a connect fee before going online at a hotzone, if required.

Boingo boasts 12,000 locations worldwide, spread throughout a network of 85 hotspot operators.

The announcement has impact for both commercial and free hotzones. Free hotzone operators gain exposure from being included in Boingo software and Wi-Fi directories supported by the company. The company says "joining the roaming system also encourages higher usage by business and corporate users" attracted by Boingo's presence.

For commercial metrozone hotspots, the MetroZone Pilot Pack means they are able to "tap into the Boingo software user base and to generate revenue every time a Boingo user connects on their network," according to Wednesday's announcement. Along with earning connection fees, Boingo will handle marketing, billing and technical support, and will provide back-office services.

While metro-scale Wi-Fi has generated quite a bit of interest, Day says "revenue-sharing makes it more attractive."

Recent headlines surrounding Philadelphia's intent to create a free Wi-Fi hotzone and possible issues that deployment may face from a new law in Pennsylvania only reinforce Tropos' belief that the concept is gaining popularity and acceptance. The news "means evangelization had an effect," says Day.

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