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Optical/IP

Phones Go Boingo

Traditional cellular carriers aren't the only service providers reporting more data traffic on their networks from smartphones. Some public-access hotspot networks are also noticing more people accessing the Internet via the new breed of flashier, WiFi-enabled handsets.

Boingo Wireless Inc. CEO David Hagan tells Unstrung that WiFi devices now represent 15 percent of overall usage across the aggregated WiFi networks that the firm supports. In years past, they represented just 1 percent.

The reason is simple enough: There are now many more WiFi-enabled devices on the market than before. From top-selling phones, like the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone to WiFi-enabled game consoles, lots of portable gadgets can get online via WiFi, more than just the laptops that helped to kickstart the move to hotspots in airports, hotels, and other public places at the turn of the century.

This is good news for the Boingo crew and for Hagan, who has been betting since 2004 that WiFi would get more mobile and has updated the Boingo client software accordingly. "It's a big part of our strategy," he says.

Four years back, Hagan told Unstrung that the company needed to develop software for smaller devices and enable VOIP-over-WiFi, predicting that cellular operators would be more open to 802.11 as they moved to flat-rate pricing. Hagan turned out to be a regular ol' wireless Nostradamus with these predictions: Flat-rate voice pricing was one of the big issues of the last year, and operators are just starting to open up to VOIP applications for smartphones. (See Boingo Bets on VOIP.) Separately, Boingo has just announced that its hotspot service is available at the two major Washington, D.C.-area airports -- Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Airport. The aggregator says that Boingo WiFi is now available in more than 100,000 locations from 150-plus hotspot operators in a worldwide network spanning 90 countries.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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