Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the TidBITS Content Network for Apple consultants.

Boingo Wireless Merges Mobiles into Laptop Wi-Fi Plans

Wi-Fi is often plentiful and free across North America, and plentiful and sometimes expensive elsewhere. We have long recommended Boingo Wireless for frequent travelers, as the firm has a simple fee structure for accessing more than 325,000 for-fee or restricted Wi-Fi hotspots around the world. Its unlimited plan for mobiles ($7.95 per month worldwide) and laptops in the Americas ($9.95 per month) have always struck us as particularly good deals, especially because there’s no cancellation fee.

(“Mobiles” includes any Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones, tablets, e-readers, MP3 players, portable gaming devices, cameras, VoIP handsets, and so on.)

I’ve often used Boingo for heavy traveling months when I don’t want to hunt down a Starbucks or free café, or when I’m staying at a hotel that normally charges a nightly fee but is included at no additional cost in a Boingo subscription.

The one remaining gall with Boingo’s plans has now been resolved. You used to need separate mobile and laptop subscriptions when roaming, which made the service more awkward to log into, and more expensive than it seemingly needed to be. Boingo has now revamped their service plans to eliminate this unnecessary awkwardness.

You can still subscribe to just Boingo Mobile for $7.95 per month, but the $9.95 Boingo Unlimited service for the Americas (and the unlimited Boingo UK & Ireland plan) now allows the use of any two Wi-Fi devices, laptop or mobile, with a $5-per-month fee for additional devices. Also, Boingo Mobile now formally includes the use of two mobile devices; I believe you previously could use two devices, but now it’s an officially supported option.

Along with the Boingo UK & Ireland plan, Boingo offers Boingo Europe Plus ($34.95 per month) and Boingo Asia Pacific ($11.95 per month); they offer unlimited service in those areas, but remain limited to two laptops. For serious globe-hoppers, Boingo Global ($59 per month) allows the use of up to four Wi-Fi devices and up to 2,000 minutes per month anywhere in the world.

You may prefer free Wi-Fi — and who wouldn’t? — but I’ve found the ubiquity of Boingo’s aggregation of many thousands of individual networks to be more than worth the cost when I travel for business purposes and need access.


READERS LIKE YOU! Support TidBITS by becoming a member today!
Check out the perks at <>
Special thanks to Miles Levit, Meir Weingarten, Robert Churches, and
Robert L. Duquette for their generous support!

Comments about Boingo Wireless Merges Mobiles into Laptop Wi-Fi Plans
(Comments are closed.)

Charles Maurer  2011-08-04 09:23
I live in a city of 500,000. Within a radius of 20 miles Boingo list only three hotspots, none of them near any train or bus station, or the airport. Boingo may be useful for some travelers but before you ante up, do check their web site to make sure they have hotspots where you are traveling.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-04 09:55
What city?
Charles Maurer  2011-08-04 13:59
I live in Hamilton, Ontario, but Hamilton is hardly unique. Here is a set of seven cities--contiguous cities--with their populations and number of Boingo hotspots:

Hamilton 500,000 2
Burlington 160,000 1
Oakville 170,000 0
Mississauga 670,000 3
Brampton 430,000 1
Vaughan 240,000 0
Markham 270,000 1
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-04 14:23
Definitely less coverage in Canada because of the smaller number of overlapping Wi-Fi providers in those areas, and the carrier control of markets. But I didn't know it was that bad. In the United States, I've never gone anywhere where I didn't have a ton of choices.

Good to know, and good to advise fellow Canadians to do some searching on the hotspot directory before signing up.
It is interesting that the iPad plan/App is worldwide, while the non-mobile plan is not. I also think it is strange that they have these types of plans. Surely, wifi bandwidth useage on an iPad is the same as on a Macbook. At 1-3MB/s its not like you will download a huge amount on one or the other device.

The iPad App is convenient, but problematic because purchased credits are tied to the iPad and not to the user. I need the ability to buy hourly credits for use on any of my families devices. I am sure they have the technology to check whether I am using multiple devices at once.

I am often frustrated by the service in Chicago O'hare. I do not know what it is about that Airport, but the connectivity is very patchy. Terminal B, for example, works great while Terminal F hardly works at all even though both show full bars. Sometimes, the Boingo App connects and the bars disappear until I reboot the system. I have not had the same problems with Boingo in any other US or UK locatio
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-04 12:40
The mobile issue is that average mobile use is substantially below that of laptops, and Boingo was able to write contracts with firms that make the mobile price possible. The laptop plan at $59/mo for 4 Wi-Fi devices and 2,000 minutes reflects a better sense of what their cost is worldwide. In the US, their costs are lower, and they can, on average, make money by selling unlimited access, as most people use relatively little or leave accounts active for months during which they don't use service at all.

On O'Hare: Boingo is the actual operator of the Wi-Fi network there through an acquisition a few years ago. You should contact them and complain! They may be aware, or it may be a particular problem they can troubleshoot.
Jerry DaBell  2011-08-09 06:29
Glenn, do I infer correctly that you subscribe selectively for the months during which you are on business travel?
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-28 16:30
Yes. If I have a batch of travel (including, sometimes, lots of time in my own city in which I won't know where I can get access reliably), I pay for those months. You can then cancel the account. I believe you might be able to put the account on hiatus, too, but you have to call them in any case. There's no termination fee.