Ina Fried

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Boingo Aims to Make it Easier to Find Wi-Fi Hotspots–Even Free Ones

Although Boingo makes its money from selling paid Wi-Fi access, the latest version of its software even helps people to find free hotspots.

Wi-Finder, as the app is known, will help users find either paid hotspots that are part of Boingo’s paid network or locate a nearby free hotspot. The new version, which will be available for iPhone, Android, Windows and Mac, was announced at the CTIA trade show on Tuesday night.

In the past, Boingo’s app was really only useful to its customers as it located paid locations. That made sense, of course, since Boingo makes its money by selling Wi-Fi, either on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis. Although it operates only a smattering of its own networks at some airports and other public locations, it has roaming agreements allowing it to sell unlimited access at more than 325,000 locations.

The new app, which will be free, will be of use for non-customers as well, displaying a map with Boingo’s paid hotspots in red and free Wi-Fi locations in blue.

Boingo spokesman Christian Gunning said the company hopes to sway a few new customers to its paid network. Even those that don’t become paying customers will help improve Boingo’s database by validating which free networks are indeed up and running.

“We all get something out of the equation,” Gunning said.

The app can even help users automatically log-on to the free locations. Gunning, who lives in Los Angeles, said he once logged into a free hotspot provided by a Jewish museum along his commute. Now, every time his car stops at that stop light he notices his Android phone automatically log onto that network.


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