Boingo expands into MDU market with Elauwit acquisition

Boingo Wireless says its $28 million acquisition of Elauwit Networks is complementary to its Wi-Fi business and similar to the work it’s been doing at military bases across the country.

Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, Elauwit provides high-speed Wi-Fi to 220 properties across the United States, the vast majority of which are student housing, a demographic that’s very similar to the one Boingo is serving on military bases.

A highly seasonal business—student housing is getting prepared for the back-to-school rush—it’s also one in which the bulk of the billing is tied back to the building owner. That’s similar to how Boingo already operates, so it doesn’t have go direct to tenants. It’s also a growing business; the multiple dwelling unit (MDU) market is growing at a rate of about 20% year over year, according to Boingo.

Building owners are also seeing heightened interest on behalf of renters who want high-speed internet above anything else. For them, as long as the building is retrofitted with internet, they can get the other services they want from over-the-top players like Netflix versus dealing with a cable company or telco.

In fact, building owners see Wi-Fi as a competitive advantage because it’s instantaneous for new tenants; they don’t have to wait for a cable company to schedule an installation and they can use it on day one.

Boingo expects the transaction to expand its addressable market for venues by an additional 16 million MDUs across the United States. It’s also an opportunity to layer on other products and services like small cells, according to Boingo CEO David Hagan.

“We’re excited about leveraging our broadband expertise in this new market segment,” he said during the company’s second-quarter earnings conference call with analysts.

RELATED: Boingo deploys trial CBRS network at Dallas Love Field Airport 

Another area representing opportunity for Boingo is the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, which is just getting off the ground with the General Authorized Access portion expected to launch this year

“We think it’s a sign of things to come,” Hagan said when asked about CBRS during the earnings call. CBRS provides another alternative that carriers, neutral host providers like Boingo and venues can tap. “We think it’s a big opportunity. We think it’s the beginning of 5G, and so we’re quite excited about it.”

The company just launched a commercial trial for a private LTE cellular network on the CBRS band at Dallas Love Field Airport, marking the first known CBRS deployment at a major U.S. airport.