Boingo Makes Airwaves Friendlier for iPhone Travelers

Boingo Makes Airwaves Friendlier for iPhone Travelers

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Written By Eric Sandler

Planning to take that sexy new iPhone with you on your summer vacation?  Wi-Fi hotspot aggregator Boingo has great news for you.  Forget AT&T’s sluggish EDGE network.  Throughout August, iPhone users can tap 13 airport Wi-Fi hotspots for free.

Why crawl when you can fly?

To really use the iPhone’s innovative web browser, you must have wireless Internet connectivity.  But the wireless service delivered through Apple’s exclusive deal with AT&T can be tediously slow and frustratingly sporadic.  Fortunately, Apple also packed 802.11b/g into the iPhone, which enables Internet surfing at multi-megabit speeds.  The catch: AT&T’s pricey iPhone service doesn’t include Wi-Fi hotspot use.Boingo hopes to lure many iPhone owners into an extended relationship by offering travelers a free taste of Wi-Fi this summer.  “With our extensive hotspot coverage, choosing Boingo is a no-brainer for iPhone users who are looking for public access options beyond EDGE,” said Dawn Callahan, Boingo’s vice president of consumer marketing.  “This free promotion is a great opportunity for iPhone users to see for themselves.”

iPhone users who fly through airports in Kalamazoo, Nashville, Baltimore, Detroit, Newark, New York (JFK and LGA), Chicago (ORD and MDW), Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and Toronto from now until August 31st can take advantage of Boingo’s free service.  Just connect your iPhone to the “concourse” hotspot and point your Safari browser at any Internet website.  Boingo’s captive portal prompts for an email address before turning on the high-speed Internet spigot, but no subscriber account or credit card payment is required.

To deliver this service, Boingo will use the airport hotspots acquired in May 2006 when it purchased Concourse Communications.  According to Concourse, these venues handle over one-fourth of all North American enplanements.  In addition, through roaming partnerships with hotspot operators around the globe, Boingo now offers its subscribers Wi-Fi access at 842 airports, 442 train stations, 308 campgrounds, 150 marinas, over 13,000 restaurants, and nearly 15,000 hotels.

Show me the money

Those who enjoy Boingo’s Wi-Fi too much to give it up come September can pay $21.95 per month for unlimited North American Wi-Fi access or $39 per month for International access.  That price-tag is just a smidge higher than AT&T’s unlimited Wi-Fi hotspot plan ($19.99 per month.)  However, Boingo’s advertised footprint is an order of magnitude greater than AT&T’s current hotspot count.  To help subscribers find those participating hotspots, Boingo provides an optional connection manager for Windows Vista, XP, 2000, Mac OS X, and Windows Mobile 5.

In fact, all but the smallest airports seem to have public access Wi-Fi these days.  Hotspot directory JiWire currently lists over 1,900 airports worldwide.  Of those in the United States, JiWire identifies 83 airports with free Wi-Fi service.  In some cases, free Wi-Fi users are limited to a relatively isolated area, like a food court or a frequent flyer lounge.  Paid airport Wi-Fi hotspots are still far more common and tend to have broader coverage, although that is certainly not always the case.

Users who cannot bear the thought of being disconnected in-flight will be happy to hear that American Airlines plans to test on-board Wi-Fi service with passengers across the U.S. in 2008.  Travelers can hope that AA and its partner AirCell prove more successful in this new venture than Boeing did with its failed Connexion in-flight Wi-Fi service.

But, for this summer at least, travelers will have to be content with surfing the web from their boarding gate.  To learn more about Boingo’s August free Wi-Fi promotion for iPhone users, visit

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