Boingo, others provide Passpoint Wi-Fi at Fira, other venues during MWC19

BARCELONA, Spain—Boingo Wireless is once again part of a consortium of entities providing Passpoint-powered Wi-Fi throughout the Fira complex where Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019 is convening this week.

Similar to last year when Cisco and Boingo engineered the network in Barcelona with Passpoint next generation hotspot (NGH) technology, they’re doing so again this year, but they added more coverage at the airport. Several hotels were added as well, according to Boingo CTO Derek Peterson.

Passpoint allows people to automatically and securely connect to Wi-Fi networks and acts more like a cellular network in that regard. Last year, nearly 20% of MWC attendees connected to Wi-Fi through the NGH network, a figure that represented a 400% increase over 2017, according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

AT&T, Sprint and Xfinity Mobile are three examples of the types of carriers that are using the Passpoint network at the show this year to offload traffic. Boingo has roaming deals with AT&T and Sprint at many of its venues throughout the world and just last week announced an expansion of its deal with AT&T.

RELATED: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile reap benefits of Passpoint deployment in Barcelona

Of course, Boingo and the rest of the parties had to prepare well ahead of time to get the access points deployed. Boingo worked with the existing providers of Wi-Fi in the subway stations, the airport, the Fira and some hotels to enable the service. In fact, more than 4,700 Cisco access points are scattered throughout the city.

There’s no revenue connected to it for Boingo; it’s strictly an industry collaboration designed to provide a good experience for MWC attendees and showcase the value of Wi-Fi, Peterson said. 

RELATED: AT&T expands Wi-Fi roaming deal with Boingo

“We’re going to keep trying to expand,” he added, so next year there should be even more venues covered in Barcelona.

Separately, Boingo is part of a Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) trial with Cisco at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. Described as an Early Functional Test (EFT), it just kicked off in mid-January, so there aren’t yet any specific results to share, but Peterson said things look promising. The airport operations team is using it internally to gauge things like speed.

Cisco has a section in its booth at MWC about 802.11ax; the test with Boingo uses the 2.4 GHz band and 5 GHz, but Peterson said it’s mostly 5 GHz.