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Boingo, Vonage Sign VoWi-Fi Pact

Boingo Wireless and Vonage Holdings Corp. Monday announced a pact giving subscribers to the popular VoIP service access to a worldwide network of Wi-Fi hotspots.

"For Wi-Fi to really change the world it needs to spread to every device that uses information from phones to portable game machines to MP3 players," said Sky Dayton, Boingo founder and CEO.

"Our ability to plug the Vonage solution into Boingo's massive Wi-Fi network makes our service even more useful to customers," said Jeffrey Citron, president and CEO of Vonage Holdings Corp.

Vonage claims more than 5 million calls a week are made using the VoIP service. Boingo boasts 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspots located at airports, cafes and hotels around the world.

In Monday's agreement, Vonage and Boingo announced they would co-market a bundle of services including a software phone and access to a network of Wi-Fi hotspots.

A nationwide trial of the service is underway, says David Rodewald, a Boingo Wireless spokesperson. Vonage subscribers are participating in the trial. Boingo expects the service bundle—offered wherever Vonage is sold—to reach consumers by the end of the year, according to Rodewald.

Vonage's SoftPhone service is $9.99 per month, according to Mitchell Slepian, spokesperson for the company. Neither Vonage nor Boingo have settled on final pricing for the bundle of VoIP services. Along with the SoftPhone service from Vonage and Wi-Fi hotspot access from Boingo, users will need to download the XPRO SoftPhone from XTEN. The software phone allows subscribers of Vonage to make phone calls from their Windows 98SE/NT/2000/XP and Mac OS X personal computers.

The service bundle is targeted at business travelers.

"History has shown that adding mobility to any type of communications has proven to be a winning combination and I think we are on the verge of that happening with VoIP," according to Peter Barris, managing general partner of New Enterprise Associates and a board member for both Boingo and Vonage.

Boingo says Monday's announcement is only "the first step in Boingo' comprehensive VoIP strategy." The Wi-Fi service provider is working to integrate into mobile phones and other non-PC gadgets the ability to log into Boingos network of hotspots.

"Our next step is to work with the manufacturers to integrate our device software into Wi-Fi ready phones," said Dayton.

In September, mobile phone chipmaker Texas Instruments said it was integrating VoIP support in a new chipset. At the time Vonage Vice President of Product Development Louis Holder, called the development 'huge.' "This enables more people" to adopt VoIP.

Vonage has not been sitting on the sidelines of VoIP integration, either. At the start of 2004, the Edison, NJ-based company unveiled plans to include its software in TI's chips. In tandem with that announcement, wireless router makers Netgear and Linksys said they had included support for Vonage in new 802.11g gear built with TI chips.

Most recently, ailing chip maker Agere took onlookers by surprise by announcing it was dropping out of the "stand-alone Wi-Fi" market in favor of developing wireless VoIP applications.