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Boingo+Cloud Nine=Free Wi-Fi+Ads

Wi-Fi service provider and aggregator Boingo announced today is was acquiring privately held Cloud Nine Media, a Wi-Fi add network. The result is likely to be growth Wi-Fi services that are free- but supported by ads.

Boingo logoFree Wi-Fi is understandably popular with users in all manner of public places. But the quality of the service is often terrible. This shouldn’t be surprising. Providing decent internet service costs money, particularly for the backhaul connection to the network. The economics can be awful, especially if what it mostly does is fill seats with “customers” who use the network connection but don;t buy much of anything. Often the free Wi-Fi seems to exist mostly as a upsell opportunity for a paid premium service.

Cloud Nine helps solve the problem by placing a 30- to 45-second ad in front of the user before a fiull network connection is established. The ads can’t be fully personalized because Cloud Nine has not personal information on users, but they can be tailored closely to the venue. “We know the exact context that a user is connecting from in a way the most ad services don’t,” says Sebastian Tonkin, CEO of Cloud Nine. “If a user is connecting from an airport, there’s a very good chance he’s waiting for a flight. We can tailor the content to the scenario, for example, serving a Hipmunk ad for hotel search.

Boingo and Cloud Nine have been working together for a while. but the acquisition is likely to accelerate the rollout of ad-supported free networks. Boingo also provides subscription and fee-for-service access as well as free Wi-Fi and recently signed a contract to provide Wi-Fi connections at Wendy’s fast-food stores.

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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

3 thoughts on “Boingo+Cloud Nine=Free Wi-Fi+Ads”

  1. I’ve been seeing this a lot lately. Companies are in tangent industries are making moves to enter the cloud service market. I don’t blame them. It’s one of the fastest growing technology markets right now. Plenty of opportunity. However, the best companies, such as the ones listed on, will continually innovate in order to stand out in the crowd.

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