Boingo uses a similar network aggregation model seen on ISP networks from the likes of iPass and GRIC. But it goes further with its business model, collecting and distributing usage revenues amongst the various network operators whose Wi-Fi hotspots it uses.
Although U.S. coverage is excellent, international coverage is patchy. That said, Boingo has by far and away the combination of blanket coverage of the U.S. and the best international coverage.
Today's pay-as-you-use tariff remains the same as it did two years ago, at $7.95 per 24 hours usage, although new users get their first two 24-hour sessions for the price of one.
Signup to the service is either via the firm's web site or via a toll-free number, with support being offered round the clock, also via a 1-800 number.
The Boingo client - available in Windows 32-bit and PocketPC flavors - is fairly large. The 32-bit client weighs in at 7.8 MB, but is highly rated by W-Fi users around the world.
Many Wi-Fi users, this writer included, use the package to sniff out local Wi-Fi networks, not just Boingo networks, as the software is very easy to use.
Installation is painless. We were able to install the software at Los Angeles airport, paying just $7.95 for two hours surfing - at an effective 1.5 Mbps - while waiting for a flight.
Unlike some competing services, we found little or no packet latency with Boingo, meaning that we could have made an internet telephony call. With international payphone and cellular rates being what they are, this could easily save a pay-as-you-use traveler the cost of his/her 24-hour subscription with one call.
Boingo takes security very seriously, allowing users to freely download its own VPN software, which supports session-based 128-bit encryption. Enabling the encryption function is simply a matter of checking a box when the software is installed.
It is difficult to fault the Boingo service. Developer Sky Dayton has clearly used the knowledge gleaned in developing Earthlink to create a public access Wi-Fi service that is very easy to use, and supports both novice and experienced users.
Easy-to-install client software. Wide number of locations. Excellent toll-free support. Relatively low price for first 12 months of user contracts.
Large client software. Customers may need to cancel a subscription (and sign up again) after 12 months to prevent themselves from paying the $39.95 a month rate.
The Boingo business model works on both the pay-as-you-use and subscription deals. It costs little to run and the support