Sprint's Wi-Fi offloading grows to 22M customers, will expand to Boost, Virgin

Sprint's Wi-Fi offloading partner Boingo Wireless said that roughly 22 million Sprint customers are now moving onto Boingo's Wi-Fi network in dozens of U.S. airports across the country. The company added that it is now supporting all of Sprint's iOS and Android phone customers, and that Boingo plans to expand support to Sprint's sub-brands, which likely include the company's prepaid brands like Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile. Boingo said it eventually expects to support up to 40 million total Sprint customers.

Boingo also reiterated that another tier-one U.S. wireless carrier would join Sprint in offloading its traffic to Boingo's Wi-Fi networks sometime in the first half of this year.

"I think the big learning has been the notion of carrier quality or carrier grade is a critical component to rolling this out. And so in our dealings with Sprint and their third party testing firm, we literally test venue by venue, platform by platform for quality of service, including being able to do VoIP over Wi-Fi as you're walking through one of our venues without call loss," said Boingo CEO David Hagan during the company's quarterly conference call with investors, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. "So we've worked hard to get to carrier grade level. I think we've done that with Sprint. I think the traffic shows that. And so as we talk to the other carriers, we have nice examples and proof of concept that we've passed that test on carrier grade. And ultimately that should speed our process to market once we sign agreements."

Importantly, Boingo said its wholesale Wi-Fi revenues during the fourth quarter reached $6.8 million, which the company said was an 82.9 percent increase over the prior year period. Company CFO Peter Hovenier said the increase was "primarily due to increased partner usage-based fees driven by our agreements with Sprint and American Express."

"In terms of offload traffic from Sprint, it continues to ramp up. It's been quite strong. We're very pleased with it," Boingo's Hagan said during the call.

Although company officials wouldn't discuss the exact terms of their agreement with Sprint, or how much data Sprint is offloading to Boingo's network, they did note that the "average Boingo customer" used 35 MB per session in 2013 and that number has grown to 300 MB in 2016.

"What's changed is what people are doing, which is really mobile video," Hovenier said.

Sprint last year struck a multi-year Wi-Fi offloading agreement with Boingo to seamlessly offload its customers' data traffic to Boingo's Wi-Fi networks at 35 major U.S. airports. The Boingo deal is one element of Sprint's evolving strategy to make Wi-Fi an integral part of its network as part of an effort to improve the performance of its network -- Sprint at the time described Wi-Fi as the "fourth layer" of its network, after its 1.9 GHz, 2.5 GHz, and 800 MHz spectrum bands.

For more:
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript

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