RealTime IT News

Boingo's Final Funding: $65 Million

Boingo Wireless says its latest — and probably last — infusion of investment capital will pay for its acquisition of Concourse Communications Group and lay the bedrock for future endeavors. This Series C round brought in a whopping $65 million (the company doesn't say how much Concourse actually cost). 

Several new investors signed on this time around, including Steelpoint Capital Partners and Red Rock Ventures. Previous investor Mitsui & Co. again lead the funding. Boingo's original funding at its launch in Dec. 2001 was $15 million; the series B round in Oct. 2003 brought in $10 million.

At the time of the second round, Boingo founder Sky Dayton was quoted as saying “Boingo’s mission is to create the premier roaming system for Wi-Fi so that any customer... can access any Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere in the world."

That was then.

While the company won't stop adding hotspots, hotzones and even entire municipal networks to the footprint of its virtual network — the company only operates hotspots through Concourse for now — Boingo wants to be about more than just Internet access at hotspots.

One major focus is a no-brainer: fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC), the coming together of cellular and Wi-Fi for voice communications on dual-mode handsets. In May, Boingo announced the release of its software code for Wi-Fi connection management under the LGPL (Lesser General Public License). The goal is to get equipment makers using BREW, Linux, Windows Mobile 2003 and Windows Mobile 5 to build Boingo support into their handheld products. In other words, give the carriers now testing F/MC networks additional Wi-Fi footprint to play with.

Hagan says a significant amount of Boingo's business is the private labeling or wholesaling of its software for devices to access its virtual network. They've done this for laptops for a while, and will be doing it for handsets as carriers set it up. "Our open source software can allow handset makers, middleware players and the carriers to integrate their offerings," says David Hagan, Boingo's president and CEO. "We'd private label it for them as an end-to-end carrier branded experience. Wholesale is core to our strategy."

And it won't stop with phones. "99% of the business has been on laptops," Hagan says, but it's moving to "all sorts of Wi-Fi devices — MP3 players, cameras — everything will have Wi-Fi."

Getting into the operator game by buying Concourse means Boingo could buy more companies in that space, Hagan admits, saying, "there may be other Concourse-like deals to do. We don't have to, we're not compelled to do so, but we may."

Concourse runs 12 major airport hotspots, including New York's JFK, LaGuardia and Newark; Chicago's O'Hare and Midway; and Toronto, Ottawa, Detroit, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Nashville and Atlanta.

Despite sharing a founder with EarthLink, Boingo doesn't have any special "in" with the ISP that's morphing into a provider of metro-sized Wi-Fi networks. The first of EarthLink's networks to launch was in Anaheim, California; others to come include New Orleans, San Francisco and Philadelphia. EarthLink remains a Boingo Platform Services customer, though, and Hagan expects the long relationship between the companies to continue.

As for the traditional work an aggregator of hotspots does — that is, aggregate more and more hotspots — that won't stop for Boingo. There's still thousands of hotspots out there that aren't yet part of the Boingo Roaming network. The company already added an entire metro network when the WiFly citywide Wi-Fi network in Taipei City, Taiwan became a roaming partner.

Simple forward motion translating to a positive cash flow seems to be the name of the game. Hagan thinks that with no debt and full coffers, the company is in a good position not to need any more funding for a long time to come, if ever. What about the possibility of taking the company public? "We'll see," says Hagan. "We have the marketing metrics, got a good brand -- we could go public in the next two to three years. But nothing's imminent."

Boingo's virtual network has 45,000 hotspots worldwide. Anyone can sign up to use the service for $10 a day or $22 a month with unlimited access.