Boingo Acquires 6,000 Free, Ad-Supported Wi-Fi Hotspots

Here’s good news for all the consumers that bought a Wi-Fi only tablet or laptop and want to use them when away from home.

The subscription Wi-Fi service provider Boingo Wireless is adapting to the rise of free Wi-Fi access and acquiring the free, ad-supported hotspot firm Cloud Nine Media to sweeten its appeal to consumers, according to Wireless Watch.

No financial details were revealed, but Boingo gets 6,000 locations, including 4,500 hotels, 475 restaurants and eight airports in the US and Canada. Under Cloud Nine’s system, users gain free access to these hotspots, in return for viewing a sponsor page and advert before they start surfing.

Ad campaigns can be targeted by the type of venue, the location or the audience profile. Advertisers currently include Google, Amazon and Symantec.

Boingo had put its toe in the water of sponsored Wi-Fi when it announced a deal in New York in June, allowing free access to its network via a partnership with Google Offers, and similar trials in a few airports with American Express.

Its standard services cost $9.95 a month in the Americas for unlimited access to an aggregated network of about 500,000 hotspots, owned by various partners, round the world. Boingo also sells subscriptions in many other markets and has alliances with corporate access providers like iPass.

Ad-supported Wi-Fi is increasingly in demand, Boingo said, especially in locations like shopping malls, which are consumer focused, rather than places such as airports, with high business traffic.

VP of corporate communications, Christian Gunning, told GigaOM: “We’ve historically outsourced this capability. As our consumer segment growth continued (and along with it the need for more sponsored access), it became evident that having this capability in-house would be beneficial.”

Cloud Nine has a proprietary sponsorship platform that will allow Boingo to create its own sponsorship propositions and added value services, as well as deliver customer data to its customers.

The company is likely to run its subscription and free models in parallel, targeting the former at business users and frequent surfers. Its huge subscription network already includes hotspots that are usually available free to consumers, so the firm is used to a certain ambiguity in its model, but the paid-for offering does have benefits, notably that it treats all the locations as a single network with the same sign-in and often no need to keep re-registering.

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