Opinion Services

Boingo: Are there any better WiFi roaming alternatives?

I had the following note in from Boingo tonight.

If you haven’t come across them, Boingo is the world’s largest network of WiFi hotspots. I use them regularly, especially when I’m abroad. They’re great with airports, hotels, coffee shops and so on. I particularly like the way their laptop software automatically logs you in — and it’s reasonably convenient to use on the iPhone. Just a few taps and you’re done, provided you’re in a Boingo zone. There are 325,000 hotspots worldwide.

I have the big plan. The crazy price one. £39 a month (or $59) that gives me 2,000 minutes per month of access. Fundamentally, I have a serious problem paying for ‘minutes’ but I understand that this is often the easiest way to make the economics work when Boingo undoubtedly has to pay ‘network access fees’ of some sort to *some* hotspots.

To put this in context, however, I think I’m committed to spend £40 per month on my primary Vodafone contract, per month. So spending a similar amount on JUST a Boingo account does make my face display all sorts of pained looks whenever I think about it.

But I don’t.

That’s my strategy.

I don’t think about it. I do the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling “LA LA LA LA” loudly. That helps me forget the stupid price and the stupid business model.

I just don’t like paying for minutes. I don’t think anybody does. I’d rather have a flat fee. And frankly, I’d rather it was LESS money. But I want to use the service on both my laptop(s) and my mobile devices. So I lump it.

And I forget about it.

Until, that is, I get these kinds of emails.

Last week I got a note telling me I was approaching my 2,000 minute limit.

Today it seems I screwed that limit.

Have a read:

Screen shot 2011 06 16 at 23 59 44

So here’s my problem: I hopped on to the Boingo site to see what I can do about this problem.

Because, you see, it’s now a PROBLEM.

Now I’ve got to DO something about it.

Now it’s a flipping faaaking exception that I need to manage.

As if I don’t have enough to deal with.

There are other plans you can buy.

To my knowledge I’ve bought the biggest one. Part of the logic there is so that I don’t get this exception shit. I just don’t want to have to manage it. Not when it’s costing the SAME as a good domestic mobile service plan.

I prepared myself for the arse-ache involved in having to upgrade my service plan.

Turns out I can’t.

I’m off to Baltimore next week and I do plan to use the Boingo service. Only, since my account is SUSPENDED……..

I’ve just spent the last 5 minutes hunting around the Boingo site looking for the PAY US MORE FLIPPING MONEY button. That’s what I was intending to do.

Yes I’ve already blown £40. I don’t have a problem with that. I used all the minutes. There was no fraud. I just happened to leave my laptop ON for hours on end when I was in Germany. I did that. Eyes open. No issue. I just didn’t expect to be punished for it.

By all means suspend the account. That’s excellent practice for folk who don’t want to spend any more money.

Me on the other hand? I need the flipping utility.

So what am I supposed to do?

I login. I look for the ‘upgrade’ button. No button.

Why can’t I buy an extra 1,000 minutes?

I have even considered buying ANOTHER account so I don’t have to deal with the flipping exceptions.

I’m at a loss to what to do.

I write this text as an illustration — a real time illustration — of user frustration, not just for Boingo’s ears (or eyes) but for the marketplace.

Could we possibly, possibly consider avoiding suspending folks’ accounts? Or, actually — what I mean to say is, by all means apply a suspension (I understand why this is relevant, good and proper), but RIGHT FLIPPING NEXT TO IT, add a button that says “UNSUSPEND” or “UPGRADE” or “TEMPORARILY GIVE US A LOAD MORE MONEY”.

I’d have done that this evening. Anything to avoid having to wake up to the reality of the amount of cash the service costs.

Now, though, I hit the wall. I woke up from the “LA LA LA LA LA” dream, dumbfounded that there appears to be no easy fix.

Now I have to sit there in flipping silence at Baltimore Airport with my arms folded because SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE at the Boingo offices decided that 2,000 minutes should be enough for anyone in a 30-day period.

Right then. To the subject of this post. Are there any alternatives you’d suggest?

I keep on hearing about iPass. I keep on thinking I need to actually, actually knuckle-down and actually look at it properly. Is there anything else I am missing?

Or, actually, should I just use my Abroadband service instead as a Boingo replacement? My 3 MiFi unit doesn’t work in the States so I’d need to upgrade that, but I’ve no issue doing so. I just haven’t bothered as Boingo has usually kept me happy enough.

I’d welcome your suggestions.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

7 replies on “Boingo: Are there any better WiFi roaming alternatives?”

Workaround: Use your skype account to pay for Boingo service, a little pricey but works and you will have access where Boingo is available.

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