• Strategic Agreement Enables Access to Boingo Wi-Fi Networks in 35 Major U.S. Airports

Los Angeles and Overland Park, Kanasas | April 30, 2015– Boingo Wireless, the leading DAS and Wi-Fi provider, and Sprint today announced a multi-year Wi-Fi agreement, enabling access to seamless and secure Boingo Wi-Fi networks in 35 major U.S. airports. Leveraging Boingo’s industry-leading network technology, connecting to Wi-Fi will become as easy and safe as cellular.

Sprint devices within proximity of a Boingo hotspot can automatically connect to the Wi-Fi network seamlessly, providing service at the fastest speeds available, be that cellular from Sprint or Wi-Fi from Boingo. The auto-authenticating Wi-Fi connections are available at no additional charge to all Sprint customers with capable devices, and usage while connected to Wi-Fi does not count towards a customer’s monthly service plan. Sprint and Boingo conducted successful market trials with millions of Sprint handsets, which demonstrated the consumer benefits of effortless authentication onto Boingo’s network.

“With Wi-Fi being the world’s largest wireless ecosystem, we view it as a highly complementary layer to our network,” said Stephen Bye, Sprint CTO. “By enabling customers to move seamlessly between secure Wi-Fi and cellular, our customers will have a better mobile experience in more locations, all while lowering their cost of data usage.”

The Sprint network improves daily and the company continues to invest in solutions that deliver the consistent reliability, capacity, and speed that customers demand. As service expands to additional Sprint handsets, customers with Passpoint-enabled devices can be connected to Boingo’s “Passpoint Secure” networks at airports nationwide. By utilizing Boingo’s “Passpoint Secure” networks, customers can enjoy a simpler mobile experience with seamless Wi-Fi authentication and WPA2 enterprise-grade encryption technology.

“Boingo’s relationship with Sprint removes the traditional barriers between Wi-Fi and cellular service,” said David Hagan, Chief Executive Officer for Boingo Wireless. “Sprint is a market leader with the integration of Wi-Fi and cellular, which is a very customer centric solution to provide an always-best-connected experience through either network.”

If you have not figured it out already, the process of trying to stay connected on your iDevice when you travel is a continual pain in the you-know-what. If you travel for a living, it is even more difficult because you deal with it every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

Pax Trends Infographic.

Sure, you may have a data plan with your voice provider but they are often expensive, have limits, and sometimes just don’t work as well when using graphical or image related communications. In fact, that is one reason why Wi-Fi is so applicable… more bandwidth, more speed, more options than the telephone, period. With respect to calling, the process of leaving your phone on at all times really works but not so with Wi-Fi. At home or in the office the process is easy because in most cases you are constantly in touch (more or less) with one provider… if you don’t go too far. Because Wi-Fi has it’s range limitations (frequency and power based), you can go in and out of multiple coverage’s in a building, on a walk, or sometimes, even in a room. You can imagine as multiple paid and unpaid hotspot solutions are presented to travelers (think airport), the process of logging on to, and waiting for, connectivity providers can be onerous… not to mention the issues of multiple passwords, security measures and signal dropout.

So, the issue here is “seamless Wi-Fi” and one of the leaders in this industry is Boingo (offering both subscription and complimentary ad-supported Wi-Fi in airports) who has established new “Passpoint Secure” networks common solution in 26 airports in the United States and Brazil. We are already talking about going beyond just the airport and, as an example, some cars are now in production that help solve this portion of the “constant connectivity” problem. The industry, IFE included, is interested in the concept, and as one Panasonic official noted, “It’s part of our travel thread discussions — starts at home, carries over to the car, then the airport lounge, then aircraft, etc.” Be aware readers, this will be a big deal for us. Why? Because the airplane and its connectivity issues are inherently involved, and, you can take this to the bank – the problems of constant connectivity will plague (that’s a word that means money to some) our industry for years to come!

We are talking here about connecting all the dots in the entire travel thread, developing constant high level password security, passing along handshakes from one service provider to another, all while operating with the least amount of power and at a high speed on your portable device, possibly in private traveling vehicles… all without you noticing it. That’s a tall order.

The last few years have seen attention to this problem by the GSM Association, the Wireless Broadband Alliance, and the Wi-Fi Alliance and they have produced a set of standards and technical specifications designed to enable roaming, seamlessly link cell phones do over the nation. Your phone detects the nearest tower; it connects to the service or hands off from another tower, and it handshakes the access to it… all without your involvement or permission.

A new technology called Passpoint can bring a cellular-like roaming experience to Wi-Fi.“Passpoint is a standard for automating and securing most aspects of getting onto Wi-Fi networks. It can eliminate the need to enter a username or password to join a Passpoint Wi-Fi network, even the first time you get on. To join a network initially, users only have to use a one-time provisioning file. After that, they automatically get on that network and on those of all roaming partners.”

Could Passpoint’s Wi-Fi Standard be just what airports need to act more like on common wireless network? Just ask SFO, San Jose, and London! Beyond these installations, Boingo has installed this technology in some twenty six airports.

And it looks like the folks at Boingo have heard the Passpoint calling and we find them deeply involved in getting their airport service Passpoint compatible. It is important to note that the new standards-based networks like Passpoint certified hardware (Wi-Fi Alliance certification – Hotspot 2.0 specification) and Next Generation Hotspot network configurations (Wireless Broadband Alliance guidelines) both enable the phone to identify and negotiate with the network without an input from the user. The goal is, of course, to establish a robust, secure, WPA2-encrypted connection with the hotspot without any password or input… in other words, it just works! Again, Boingo told us the following when we asked about the various terms and what they mean:

“Passpoint is a revolutionary new wireless industry standard that enables seamless, secure, automatic Wi-Fi access, with no user action needed. As you may have seen in your research online, people sometimes conflate various industry terms such as Passpoint, Hotspot 2.0 and Next Generation Hotspot. In reality, these are separate but interrelated standards and technical specifications that make this seamless, secure and automatic Wi-Fi access possible. Each of these terms’ definitions and role in this new network technology can be explained in simple terms as follows:

Q: What is Passpoint? Passpoint is the Wi-Fi Alliance’s trademarked brand designating that a hardware device has passed interoperability testing against the Hotspot 2.0 technical specification. Any hardware devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, access points) that pass the testing for the Hotspot 2.0 specification compatibility receive Passpoint certification. Those devices with Passpoint™ certification include the necessary technologies to enable seamless, secure connections.

Q. What is Hotspot 2.0? Hotspot 2.0 is a technical specification from the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) — the global organization that oversees Wi-Fi interoperability certification. Hotspot 2.0 serves as the foundation for seamless, secure connections to Wi-Fi networks using a combination of Wi-Fi standards that can fundamentally change public Wi-Fi access. The Hotspot 2.0 technical specification requires several key technologies (primarily IEEE 802.11u and IEEE 802.1x) to enable seamless, secure access.

Q. What is Next Generation Hotspot? Next Generation Hotspot is an initiative within the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) — the global organization for Wi-Fi network operators — to enable public Wi-Fi networks for seamless, secure connections using Passpoint-certified hardware, and network integration best practices defined by the WBA and its members.

As we were told by Boingo: “Passpoint networks, like Boingo’s “Passpoint Secure” networks, have the power to fundamentally change the way consumers connect to Wi-Fi. These Passpoint networks have the potential to do away with public Wi-Fi log-ins and browser redirects forever. They provide automatic access to a secure Wi-Fi network using a Passpoint profile stored on your favorite device, dramatically improving the experience of getting connected to public Wi-Fi.”

“Passpoint Secure” networks provide three key benefits to users:
Instant Access: With a properly installed profile, a phone or tablet will recognize the network immediately and log a user in. It’s just like the experience you have when you walk into your home or office, and automatically connect to a private secure network.

Simple Access: People with a properly installed Passpoint profile won’t have to open a browser, enter a password in a login screen, or hunt for a network – they’ll be connected before they pull their phone out of their pockets.

Secure Access: Passpoint-enabled networks use 802.1x to authenticate users onto a WPA2 encrypted connections. Or in layman’s terms: the networks enable an enterprise-level secure connection, with no VPNs needed.

Passpoint networks have just begun to roll out worldwide. Boingo was one of the first Wi-Fi operators in the world to launch commercial Passpoint networks in Q1 2014.

The Boingo “Passpoint Secure” networks are currently available to Boingo subscribers with a Passpoint profile installed on an applicable device. Passpoint credentials are available to Boingo subscribers and can be easily installed in a couple of simple steps.

“Currently, Passpoint connectivity is available only for users of late model iOS and Macintosh devices, such as iPhone 5 and 6, late model iPads, and Macintosh laptops running the Mavericks or Yosemite operating systems,” they said.

Lastly, we wanted to see what is driving this upgrade:

Q: Why do you folks believe in it?
“Passpoint by definition provides the best connectivity experience that there is. Customers can connect with instant, secure and seamless access, without having to do anything, provided that they are on a compatible device with a Passpoint profile installed. Boingo has been a believer, supporter and contributor to seamless Wi-Fi connectivity standards for years now. Boingo has been a leading contributor to the development and implementation of the Wireless Broadband Alliance’s Next Generation Hotspot (NGH) and the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Passpoint standards since their inception nearly four years ago.

In Q1 2014, Boingo became the first operator and WBA member to launch Hotspot 2.0 networks for consumer use in the United States, at more than 20 airports serving more than 450 million travelers each year.”

But don’t take our word for it, check this out from Elliot’s Newsletter – “When it comes to phones, perhaps the most irritating travel problem is connectivity. One of my favorite Wi-Fi networks is Boingo (subscription required). This fall, it’s deploying a new network that it says re-imagines public Wi-Fi based on usage profiles. It’s one of several connectivity apps bringing us closer to a day when you don’t have to rely on expensive cellular networks to phone home.”

We note, that this challenge ends with the airplane and the connectivity solution there. We will be watching to see if any of the aforementioned technologies shows up on an aircraft so we suggest that our readers Stay Tuned!

Lastly, if you fear that the existing 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac will get congested with all the  traffic, you have a point. So did retired IFE’er Bill Baltra and judging by the link, there is a possible solution – it’s worth a look and it runs at 60 GHz!

Inflight Wi-Fi provider (Gogo) has discontinued its deal to provide roaming Internet access for customers of Boingo airport Wi-Fi, announced in a notice sent to Boingo customers yesterday. In the past, users of Boingo could log on to Gogo with the same password. The company said to it’s customers; “Because you’re a loyal Boingo user who has logged in to the inflight Wi-Fi services provided by our partner Gogo, we thought it was important to let you know that effective June 1, that will no longer be possible.” As an“ease of service deal” only, we suspect more is going on here. The note from Boingo went on: “We’d like to apologize for this change, since we know our customers really appreciated this convenience.” Boingo and Gogo inked a deal in 2011 and Gogo has “opted not to renew its roaming contract with Boingo.” The airport Wi-Fi service provider noted that it still has roaming agreements with Deutsche Telekom, for access on international flights who services nine other international airlines and we were wondering if this cancellation was a notice to the industry that Gogo might be heading in another direction – Airport Wi-Fi? It makes a lot of sense since a ground application at the airport – both before takeoff and upon landing – it could usher in a new line of service and revenue for Gogo… but that is just a guess on our part. Stay Tuned!

Here are a couple news notes from Global Eagle – “IFE Services, a subsidiary of Global Eagle Entertainment (NASDAQ:ENT), announced today that it has developed Iberia’s new inflight entertainment (IFE) content app. Called ‘IberiaOnBoard’, the freely downloadable app allows travellers to check out all of the IFE content available to them on their upcoming Iberia flights. Every movie and TV show is listed by genre and has a trailer with accompanying useful information including synopsis, cast, director, rating, duration and language availability. Music album information lists tracks and their times. A special Kids’ section showcases all of the specially selected children’s content on offer inflight. Mobile app development is just one of many new products Global Eagle Entertainment has introduced to the airline industry recently as the world’s leading inflight entertainment content and connectivity provider continues its focus to innovate on behalf of clients.” And the second “Global Eagle Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq: ENT) announced today that its subsidiary IFP has entered into a multi-year agreement with Etihad Airways to provide inflight entertainment (IFE) content programming across its entire fleet, as well as to its partner airlines Air Serbia and Air Seychelles. Starting this quarter, IFP will provide a rich and varied program of regional and international content including popular movies, TV shows and audio programming to support the airline’s world-renowned guest experience. “We’re thrilled to have been selected by Etihad Airways for its content services,” added Walé Adepoju, Executive Vice President of Customer Solutions for Global Eagle Entertainment. (Editor’s Note: Strangely, the market has reacted negatively – “Global Eagle Acquisition Corp (NASDAQ:ENT) takes the last spot on today’s list of midday losers. Its price dropped -8.27% even after the announcement that its subsidiary IPF has entered into a multi-year agreement with Etihad Airways to provide inflight entertainment and content programming. In Soros’ investment portfolio since March 2013, ENT’s price has fallen -23.87% YTD,” noted Motley Fool.)

On another note, BE Aerospace just purchased EMTEQ, the LED lighting company who has a large investment in replacement lighting. The very profitable BEA has quite a business in the Boeing Sky Interior and we suspect they may be looking to garner more retrofit LED lighting work. The deals come about a month after B/E said it may be putting itself up for sale as part of “exploring and evaluating” its strategic alternatives. “Demand for comprehensive and integrated solutions for power management, lighting and connectivity within the aircraft cabin is growing,” Amin Khoury, B/E’s chairman and co-chief executive, said in a statement. ”The combination of our lighting and power management systems business with EMTEQ’s highly complementary lighting, cabin management and power systems businesses, as well as their electrical and connectivity expertise, will allow us to expand our product and service offerings in the commercial airliner and business jet markets.”

If you have been wondering why we have been covering the real-time aircraft inflight positioning brouhaha it is because there are a lot of potential links between inflight entertainment hardware (severs for example), and the connectivity platforms and data acquisitions that serve them. Yes, we are out on a limb here but we have been talking to a number of companies, new and some presently in the IFE business, who feel that there is a need to get this job done. While some see the potential of revenues based on position acquisition, weather, system data, and performance information, if data connections to the ground are established, it might fulfill an age-old discussion that claimed that the aircraft is the last remaining un-served node on the airline network. As it turns out, there is some compatibility. A good example is Panasonic’s FlightLink. Compatible or not, companies in our industry are racing to get in the business (or related industries) by acquisition, developing new services, and is some cases, new start-ups. This brings us to a “Stay Tuned” note for an upcoming article on Wisscom. You probably never heard of them but you might in the near future.

Now, while still on the previous subject, IATA Chief, Tony Tyler, in a recent speech referring to safety challenges, said the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 pointed to an immediate need. “A large commercial airliner going missing without a trace for so long is unprecedented in modern aviation. It must not happen again. IATA, ICAO and experts from around the world are working together to identify the best recommendations for improved global tracking. By September, we will deliver draft options to ICAO,” he said. Watch this one.

Recently, an IATA news release noted the following: “The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the global airline industry will generate $18 billion in profits this year, but far from being a cause for cause for celebration, Director General Tony Tyler called this forecast a “challenge.” “The brutal economic reality is that on revenues of $746 billion, we will earn an average net margin of 2.4%,” Tyler said June 2 at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Doha, Qatar. “That’s less than $6 per passenger.” Tyler noted profits are improving, and the average return on invested capital (ROIC) today is 5.4%, higher than it has historically been, but that is short of what he said is the 7-8% ROIC investors demand.” We wonder if future IFE sales have fallout from this development, but it certainly explains the drive for ancillary revenue. Interestingly AIER noted in February 2014, commercial airlines—the buyers of commercial aircraft, the transportation sector’s third major component—hit a new record high in their revenue passenger load factor (the ratio of revenue passenger miles divided by available seat miles in passenger services, a measure of the portion of aircraft seating capacity that is actually sold and utilized).”

A recent article in a communication weekly noted “Rumors have been rampant over recent months regarding Google’s satellite ambitions, which are tied to a desire to increase its information-gathering prowess (think Google Earth and Google Street View) as well as an effort to extend wireless broadband services worldwide and, thus, create a larger market for its other Internet-based products, including search, YouTube and more.” Further, we understand Facebook is also eyeing a similar solution for worldwide social media domination. FierceTech Wireless went on; “I would expect the (Google) constellation to be launched in two phases, with the higher altitude satellites providing complete global coverage, and the lower satellites being added later, in between the initial nine planes, to provide additional capacity. It also seems likely that the system could include inter-satellite crosslinks (within each of the two halves of the constellation) given the near polar orbit that is planned,” he wrote in a blog on his TMF Associates website.” You note, nothing was mentioned about inflight connectivity but watch this space.

We found a very quick synopsis on inflight Wi-Fi installations/pricing – Check it out. And speaking of inflight Wi-Fi, here is a pretty good primer on the subject.

It looks like UAL has selected to use iOS for their content distributionUnited Airlines updates iOS app to support exclusive, free in-flight video content

If you plan to go to the APEX EXPO in September (15 – 18) here is your first notice from IFExpressRegistration