Case Study: Boingo’s Convergence Strategy

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Boingo is a champion of network convergence and a neutral host provider of Wi-Fi, DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems), and small cells. The company’s strategy is to acquire long term wireless rights at large venues like airports, transportation hubs, stadiums, arenas, military bases and other commercial properties; build high-quality wireless networks at those venues and monetize the networks through its services.The following is taken from the annual WBA industry report now available.

In 2016, Boingo reported revenue of $159.3 million, with key growth drivers including its DAS, military and carrier offload businesses. As of Nov. 2, 2017, the company had 22,200 DAS nodes live and another 11,000 in backlog. Its military business, Boingo Broadband, has been deployed on 58 domestic bases for a total footprint of 324,000 beds (potential customers). As cellular networks become strained due to capacity, carriers like Sprint are offloading their licensed mobile traffic onto Boingo’s unlicensed networks.

Wi-Fi

Boingo claims more than one million hotspots. Its retail business enables individuals to purchase Internet access at Boingo’s managed and operated hotspots and select partner locations around the world.

Passpoint

Boingo, a pioneer in Passpoint, demonstrated at the inaugural 2017 Mobile World Congress Americas event that Hotspot 2.0 technology is thriving. More than 60 percent of attendees’ Wi-Fi connections were automatically authenticated through Passpoint, alleviating operator networks without sacrificing the users’ connected experience. Attendees used an average of 3.6 TB of data per day (and over 7.6TB in total) when using the guest Wi-Fi and experienced average Wi-Fi speeds of over 50 Mbps. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile customers were among those who roamed onto the event’s Passpoint network seamlessly and securely.

Neutral-Host Strategy

Boingo is well known in deploying neutral host networks. Each venue has its own characteristics and requirements and so Boingo will deploy the appropriate wireless technology based on the needs of each unique property. Venue owners are increasingly willing to fund part of the network cost as they see the value of a better-connected building or venue. With the emergence of CBRS and spectrum sharing (and Multefire?), small cells will become a viable choice in mid-sized to smaller venues and buildings.

Network Virtualization

Boingo’s plan has been migrating its network architecture to a more virtualized environment. In 2014, the company started its SMART (Secure, Multi-platform, Analyticsdriven, and Tiered) network deployment in major airports. Access point controllers for the airports are deployed in a cloud environment where they can be shared across multiple facilities. SMART architecture enables Boingo to offer tiered services to its customers and better manage user traffic while reducing infrastructure costs. Boingo has been busy deploying mobile edge computing with virtual network business functions and have used it for Wi-Fi. Ninety percent of Boingo’s data center is virtualized.

Network Convergence

To power next generation networks, Boingo is a strong advocate for convergence. Boingo believes 5G will be based on the unified aggregation of multiple bands, including the convergence of licensed and unlicensed spectrum. According to CTO Dr. Derek Peterson, Wi-Fi in particular is crucial for enabling next generation networks the ability to handle 5G requirements that include one gigabyte of speed, one millisecond of latency and extraordinary user demand. Today, Boingo operates Convergence 1.0 networks where Wi-Fi, DAS and small cells are deployed within a venue. In the future, Boingo will look to Convergence 2.0, where licensed and unlicensed bands will be blended through a centralized controller.

Conclusion

Boingo is a neutral-host network provider of connectivity solutions for in-building environments. With mobile data continuing to skyrocket, buildings and venues can turn to Boingo to launch and manage hyper-dense wireless networks to satisfy connectivity demands.

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Mr. Fellah, is a Senior Analyst and founder of Maravedis with 20-year experience in the wireless industry. He authored various landmark reports on Wi-Fi, LTE, 4G and technology trends in various industries including retail, restaurant and hospitality. He is regularly asked to speak at leading wireless and marketing events and to contribute to various influential portals and magazines such as RCR Wireless, 4G 360, Rethink Wireless, The Mobile Network, Telecom Reseller to name a few. He is a Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) and Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS).

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