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Private Networks

Boingo touts new private wireless deal with San Diego Padres

Boingo said it built a private wireless LTE network for the San Diego Padres baseball team, which will use that network to handle cash-free payments, contactless concessions and mobile ticketing in its stadium.

"It's been designed to provide exactly what we need," said Padres CEO Erik Greupner. He explained that the Padres needed to move their payments and ticketing systems off congested public networks and onto a private network that would be dedicated to the team's 1,000 staffers. He said that the Padres may expand their use of the network to include other services up to and potentially including sports gambling.

"It allows us to take a load of usage from our Wi-Fi and DAS [distributed antenna system] and move," Greupner explained. "It's nice to have redundancy."

"Boingo is thrilled to add the Padres to our roster and do our part to enable a fully connected ballpark," added Boingo CEO Mike Finley.

Finley said Boingo's private network for the Padres runs in the unlicensed portion of the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band and covers Gallagher Square within the Padres' Petco Park stadium. The square can support up to 13,000 fans for games, concerts and other events. The network relies on spectrum management software from Federated Wireless, and hardware and software from Cisco and CommScope. Padres staff will use Apple iPads to access the network.

Expanding the business

But Boingo's Finley explained that the company sees private wireless networks as another product Boingo can add to its lineup of networking services. Boingo builds wireless networks – including 4G, 5G and Wi-Fi – in venues ranging from airports to military bases. The company's new private wireless network business – fronted by former AT&T executive Michael J. Zeto III – represents a new line of business for Boingo. It essentially allows Boingo to add private networking options on top of the public networks it already builds for venues and other customers.

This isn't Biongo's first private wireless network. The company already announced it constructed a CBRS network for Chicago O'Hare International Airport that powers a virtual customer service center at the airport's Traveler's Aid Station. The dedicated network connects on-site passengers and remote support staff via a live video kiosk.

Of course, Boingo isn't the only company chasing the private wireless networking opportunity. Indeed, a wide range of other companies is also looking to break open opportunities in the space, from wireless network operators like AT&T and Verizon to cloud computing companies like Google and Amazon to startups like Betacom and Celona.

"This is where the different players are trying to obtain a foothold in the opportunity they see," analyst Kyung Mun, with Mobile Experts, recently told Light Reading.

Boingo, remade

Boingo is tackling the private wireless networking opportunity at an important time in the company's history. What is today DigitalBridge purchased Boingo earlier this year in a transaction valued at around $854 million. The deal put Boingo – previously a publicly traded company – under the massive umbrella cast by DigitalBridge. Over the past few years, DigitalBridge has acquired a wide range of digital infrastructure companies ranging from fiber operator Zayo to data center provider DataBank to small cell vendor ExteNet Systems.

While each of DigitalBridge's portfolio companies operates somewhat independently, they all fall under the purview of DigitalBridge CEO Marc Ganzi, a veteran in the global cell tower industry.

Thus, it's likely that Boingo will be part of DigitalBridge's move into the private wireless networking space. Boingo has remained relatively quiet since DigitalBridge's acquisition of the company earlier this year, but hopes to make a splash with its new deal with the Padres. The company is scheduled to conduct a keynote presentation on its deal with the Padres during the upcoming MWC Los Angeles 2021 trade show later this month.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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