Boingo Wireless announced on Monday that it was launching a new service, called Boingo Mobile, which will offer mobile phone users unlimited WiFi access across its network for $7.95 per month, including both voice and data usage. The service requires a special Boingo Mobile client to be installed on the mobile device, which is how the company will prevent the service being used by laptops and other more data-oriented devices. Boingo claims to have 60,000 hotspots around the world.
Comment: The announcement is significant because one of the biggest barriers (although there are still others) to the adoption of dual-mode, cellular/WiFi devices has been that public hotspot usage was prohibitively expensive even for voice usage. The same $10/day (or higher) rates that applied for laptops applied also for mobile phones, and this made it totally uneconomical for all but the heaviest power users to consider VoIP over WiFi as a means of saving money on calls.
Having said this, barriers still remain to the usage of both WiFi-only devices such as those designed for Skype and sold by Belkin and others, and for dual-mode devices. So far, the mobile client is only available for Windows-based devices (although no doubt other OSs will follow in time). Finding and then signing on to the nearest hotspot will still take time and effort compared with simply making a cellular call, meaning that the best use case will still be international travel, where roaming charges and/or wireless technology incompatibilities make the alternative less attractive.
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