Boingo Buys Concourse Network

By Eric Griffith

May 22, 2006

The hotspot aggregator becomes a service provider by buying out a company with service in 12 major U.S. aiports.

Up until now, Boingo Wireless has tried a lot of things — foremost among them, building a virtual network of 45,000 hotspot locations across the globe through 130 different agreements with hotspot providers. But it was never a provider itself, until this week.

Today, Boingo, based in Santa Monica, California, announced that it is buying Concourse Communications Group under undisclosed financial terms. The two have been roaming partners since December 2003. David Hagan, Boingo's President and CEO, told Wi-Fi Planet he went after Concourse with hopes to become more than partners last fall.

Chicago-based Concourse operates hotspot networks in 12 major airports in the United States, including New York's JFK, LaGuardia and Newark; Chicago's O'Hare and Midway; and Toronto, Ottawa, Detroit, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Nashville and Atlanta. They "represent 54 percent of enplanements among North America's top 100 airports," according to the company release, but they don't say how well that translates to paying wireless customers. Hagan believes that the walled-garden sign-in pages Concourse has at airports "are an opportunity for Boingo to sign up day-pass and monthly subscribers to go onto our global network." Look for those sign-in pages to sport the Boingo brand very soon.

The company also says this buyout gives them "a platform for testing emerging dual mode handset implementations and VoIP traffic management." Concourse operates not just Wi-Fi hotspots but also cellular infrastructure equipment at many airports. Boingo recently started offering an open source Wi-Fi toolkit for handheld vendors to enable PDAs and phones to use hotspots like Boingo's.

Since Concourse was already a roaming partner, this doesn't increase Boingo's footprint. Hagan says both companies are making money, and due to little overlap in jobs, Concourse will continue to be run on its own with few staff cuts. There's no word on how this deal may impact Concourse's roaming agreements with Boingo competitors like T-Mobile Hotspot, iPass and others, if at all.

Will Boingo continue to buy providers in airports or elsewhere? Hagan says no: "We're not looking to buy more," he says. "We like where we are."

Boingo was founded by Sky Dayton, who also founded ISP EarthLink, a company that also recently started building real networks — citywide Wi-Fi networks, in fact — after years of using the lines of third parties to provide dial-up Internet access.

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