Tech Bytes

At the annual Airports Council International-North America meeting in Toronto in September, Roland Muse, CEO of Opti-Fi, a provider of wireless Internet services formed by ARINC Inc., Airpath Wireless, Inc., and Parsons Corporation, sat with AIRPORT BUSINESS to share his thoughts on the state of wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) in airports. While airports continue to upgrade and expand technology, both on the public and private side, there seems to be no single business model for this public service.

Is wireless a customer service that should be offered for free, or is it a potential revenue stream? Muse expects it will “remain in both buckets” — there are those airports that are “pretty sold” on the free wireless model and those that see the potential in the pay-for-service model. As a neutral host provider, Opti-Fi will “actively pursue both free and pay-for-service contracts.”

Concerns over the secure transmission via Wi-Fi networks, says Muse, are not as prominent in the airport environment as other issues: stable service, customer service, and good exposure.

Roaming agreements between wireless fidelity providers, which allow subscribers to one company to use another provider’s service, are becoming more common and more important, according to Muse. “We want to encourage usage of Wi-Fi, not competition,” he says.

In August, Opti-Fi announced a roaming agreement with Boingo Wireless, a Wi-Fi provider. The agreement adds all of Opti-Fi’s wireless access points at 30 North American airports to the Boingo Roaming System. The agreement expands the number of airports in the Boingo Roaming System to 93 in North America, and 169 worldwide, according to the companies.

Opti-Fi also recently entered a roaming agreement with GoRemote Internet Communications, Inc., a provider of secure broadband network services. Under the agreement, GoRemote wireless subscribers can log on at 30 airport terminal and departure gate locations managed by Opti-Fi across North America.

Also, Opti-Fi plans to add another 28 airport hot spots in the near future, and will soon be providing coverage for almost a quarter of GoRemote’s airport locations;