AT&T Partners with Boingo to Expand Wi-Fi Footprint

by Matt Klassen on April 10, 2013

Global Wi-Fi services company Boingo announced yesterday via press release that it has partnered with American telecommunications giant AT&T to expand each company’s Wi-Fi footprint, a deal that will see AT&T subscribers gain free access to Boingo’s Wi-Fi services in international airports around the world, with Boingo subscribers in turn receiving free access to AT&T’s Wi-Fi hotspots across the continental USA.

The agreement, which pertains to AT&T customers who have already subscribed to Ma Bell’s 300MB or 800MB international data roaming add-on package and all Boingo subscribers, is clearly a boon for consumers, allowing AT&T customers access to a wider global Wi-Fi network that in turn will help ease dependency on niggardly global roaming plans and help curb punishing data overage fees.

While such a partnership clearly shores up holes in both companies’ Wi-Fi global footprint, on a grander scale this move serves as one of the first steps towards making Wi-Fi a viable alternative to data networks, allowing companies like AT&T to “reduce network congestion, increase service quality and decrease infrastructure costs,” its just a shame you already have to purchase a data roaming plan to benefit from it.

There’s no question in my mind that carriers need to make international smartphone usage more affordable for the average customer. As it stands, data roaming packages offer subscribers one option, forcing them to pay up front for a rather stingy data allotment in order to avoid severe and punishing data overage fees, but few travellers would ever say it’s truly affordable or useful.

Of course carriers are hesitant to make data roaming more cost effective for several reasons: the added stress on already strained data networks and the plum cash cow data overage fees have become certainly the two most important. But that said, for several years now companies have been researching how to use heretofore deficient Wi-Fi technology to help reduce network strain, boosting Wi-Fi power and availability in hopes that people will find it a useful alternative to speedier wireless technology.

This agreement, therefore, stands as an important step in that direction, the partnership allowing AT&T to add options for customers while allowing the company to reduce its own costs associated with providing international roaming services. Further, by providing viable data network alternatives, AT&T’s agreement with Boingo will serve as but one way for subscribers to avoid that ever so frustrating realization that they’ve overstepped their stingy bandwidth cap and stumbled into overage country.

But of course amongst the good news that AT&T subscribers now have free access to Wi-Fi hotspots in airports the world over exists the stark realization that this new ‘free’ Wi-Fi service doesn’t come cheap, as its only available to customers with the $60/300MB or $120/800MB monthly roaming package. In fact, it seems the only real winners in this deal are Boingo customers, who now gain free access to some 30,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the USA.

In the end, while this partnership serves notice that Wi-Fi is quickly becoming a solid alternative to expensive data network access, the fact that AT&T offers it only to those who have already purchased a data roaming bundle leaves much to be desired, making this partnership a solid first step towards expanding Wi-Fi’s global footprint, with hopes that there’s still much to come.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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