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June 27, 2012

Google Offers Teams with Boingo Wireless for Free Wi-Fi - Subway Stations Part of Unique Pilot

For those of you who follow my postings, you are aware that while I am live in the suburbs, I am a New Yorker at heart. Thus, the announcement from Google Offers in conjunction with Boingo Wireless that they would offering free Wi-Fi service in six subway stations and more than 200 hotspots throughout New York City caught my attention.

You heard correctly, as of June 25 and running through September 7, Google’s version of Groupon will be sponsoring pedestrians in high-traffic areas free use of Boingo’s subscription based service.     

What’s the deal?

If you are wandering around New York City, particularly if you are in the Union Square area of Chelsea and are a subway patron, keep an eye out for the signs below at the following stations:

  • A/C/E station at 8th Avenue and 14th Stree
  • F/M station at 6th Avenue and 14th Street
  •  L station at 6th Avenue and 14th Street

These are the ones being fitted for service. And, if you are just visiting and are planning on taking the subway, which I highly recommend, you can find a great tool for getting around in the various app stores which contain free NYC Subway maps for your smartphone or tablet.

All you will need to do is turn on your Wi-Fi and click on the Boingo network. There you will be connected to a branded landing page to connect with the option to subscribe to Google Offers.

Part of effort to blanket high-traffic areas

Boingo explained that Google Offers was the first sponsor of the Boingo Wi-Fi in New York subway stations. The company partnered with Transit Wireless to equip more than 36 subway stations by the end of this year and in five years it hopes to cover all the NYC subway stations and reach more than 1.6 billion annual passengers.

It should also be noted that Boingo recently signed an agreement with Towerstream Corporation to allow Boingo to manage Internet services across the state-of-the-art Wi-Fi network in New York City’s Manhattan borough that is operated by Towerstream.

A good deal and a good deal more

Reactions and statements regarding the initiative were as one would suspect, glowing.

MTA director of strategic initiatives Jerome Page stated, "We're glad our riders will be able to access free Wi-Fi this summer in six subway stations to stay connected while they're underground…Reliable Wi-Fi is an important benefit for straphangers in New York City subway stations."

Transit Wireless CEO William A. Bayne Jr. added, "Thanks to Google Offers, straphangers can enjoy the convenience of free Boingo Wi-Fi service this summer… Working with the MTA and Boingo Wireless, we have created a highly reliable wireless system which continues our commitment to make New York City subway riders the most connected people on the planet."

There were similar statements of enthusiasm from Google Offers and Boingo. 

The brass tacks on this are interesting. This is a clever brand-awareness play by Google Offers looking to get traction in the critical New York market as it looks to differentiate itself from other couponing sites. In fact, as Christian Gunning, Boingo’s director of corporate communications noted, subway riders are a valuable demo for advertisers to target, with more than 70 percent between the ages of 18 and 54 and more than 35 percent exceeding $75,000 in annual income.

Boingo likes the idea of moving some of its access to an advertiser-based business model and is counting on another company to pick up the ball after the pilot with Google Offers expires. Boingo plans to add 30 more New York City hotspots by the end of the year and will be selling brands exclusive network-wide sponsorships.

This is an important test for Google Offers as well. It is customizing its offers to users based on leveraging location information. Google is splicing NYC into three regions, which means users will be fed targeted ads for the areas of town where they turn on and tune in.

It’s all about access

Given all of the recent pushes by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the Big Apple the connectivity capital of the world, enabling free Wi-Fi access from virtually anywhere in the city is part of the plan to increase capacity in high-traffic areas. 

The broader context for this is going to be the ongoing battle between cellular companies, cable TV, Wi-Fi hotspot providers and OTT in their competition for traffic. Macro cellular companies for a host of reasons are going to be aggressively pushing to put small cells in heavy traffic areas like subway stations and are likely to give their subscribers a Wi-Fi alternative as well. 

Everyone else will be vying for the prized users who want what they want when they want it, and are coveted not just because they have a great spending profile but because they are heavy users in general. Keeping this crowd on your network is critical because as we all know eyeballs and time translate into advertising dollars directly through sponsorships as well as clicks.

How important is this? Authorities in London recently announced their intent to provide free wireless in the Tube, and Wi-Fi provider GOWEX in looking to do the same for the Paris Metro and other heavily trafficked places in that great city.

I look at this from a more pedestrian standpoint. Free is a price I like to pay, and to be honest my place to connect of choice when in NYC is Starbucks and frankly while I like their Wi-Fi I am not a huge fan of their coffee and finding a table (and electrical outlet I should add) can be problematic. Union Square, for instance, is a great place to people watch with lots of park benches to stretch out on. I can’t wait to take the Google Offers/Boingo offer out for a spin.  

Want to learn more about today’s powerful mobile Internet ecosystem? Then be sure to attend the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5 2012, in Austin, TX. Co-sponsored by TMC Partner Crossfire Media the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo provides unmatched networking opportunities and a robust conference program representing the mobile ecosystem. The conference not only brings together the best and brightest in the wireless industry, it actually spans the communications and technology industry. For more information on registering for the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo click here.

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Edited by Jamie Epstein

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