Boingo Wireless Inc. is making connections.
The 11-year-old Santa Monica company, which installs Wi-Fi networks for shopping malls, restaurants and airports, recently signed a deal with Wendy’s Co. to set up Wi-Fi service at the Dublin, Ohio-based fast-food chain’s restaurants. Also this month, Boingo bought an online advertising company and added to the scope of its contract for promotion by a division of Mountain View Internet giant Google Inc.
Analysts said they expect Boingo, with revenue streams from subscribers, advertising and network installation, will be making even more deals in the future.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw one or two of those kinds of major partnerships a month for the rest of the year,” said Jon Hickman, an analyst with Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc. in New York.
But the company reported disappointing earnings earlier this month. Boingo posted second quarter net income of $1.6 million, down 11 percent from the same period a year ago. Revenue rose 6 percent to $24.3 million. That was $1 million less than projected.
Stock of the company, which went public last year, fell over the last six weeks from $10.98 to close at $6.79 on Aug. 22.
The disappointing earnings, however, are offset by the company’s future prospects as consumer demand increases for smartphone Wi-Fi access, according to analysts.
Boingo was founded by Sky Dayton in 2001 and has 149 employees. Until now, most of its subscribers have been using the service for Internet access while traveling with their laptops. But future demand, company executives believe, will come from people who want to use Wi-Fi instead of their data plan that comes with their smartphones.
The Wendy’s deal places Boingo and its ad customers in 6,500 restaurants. The chain will provide the service for free.
The fast-food company is the largest addition to Boingo’s client roster, which includes the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. and malls owned by Westfield Group. The company’s airport clients include John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
But in a conference call on the earnings, the company acknowledged that installation of Wi-Fi spots has been going slower than expected and ad revenue has been underwhelming.
In the call, Chief Executive David Hagan mentioned that deals have been signed at the international airports in Beijing and Berlin. He also noted a partnership with SK Telecom Co. Ltd., a Seoul, South Korea, wireless provider, that gives Boingo customers access to 75,000 hot spots in that country.
Last week, Boingo announced that Google Offers will cover all or part of the cost of Boingo Wi-Fi at malls and airports across the country.
Meanwhile, the company addressed what analysts call its biggest weakness: online advertising sales, about 5 percent of its revenue, by purchasing an online ad company.
With the acquisition of Cloud Nine in San Francisco, Boingo plans to do better. Previously, it had been paying a third party to handle ad sales. The ads appear on a sign-in screen when a customer connects to a Boingo network.
“There’s a significant revenue share from ad sales that’s going back to the seller,” said Christian Gunning, a spokesman for Boingo. “To keep it all in-house allows us to generate more revenue and not have to share it with a third party.”
Meanwhile, mounting demand for Wi-Fi by people with cell phones bodes well for the company, according to analysts.
Mobile data networks, such as 4G, will be overtaxed as more people use them for larger files, such as videos. So demand for Wi-Fi will increase as networks reach capacity, especially in bigger cities such as New York and Los Angeles. A report released by data network company Cisco Systems Inc. said that smartphone use tripled from 2010 to 2011. And as most major mobile providers have adopted data limit plans, many customers actively seek out wireless hot spots to avoid paying any overage fees.
In order to take advantage of the situation, Boingo has made deals with several mobile providers such as New York’s Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. in Overland Park, Kan., to take some of the data load in certain locations.
Whereas high-speed mobile like 4G was once seen as a competition for wireless, the demands that high data users are making has created a possible hybrid relationship between the two sectors. A technology that’s being developed, Gunning said, is an integration of mobile and wireless that would allow a mobile company to shift a user between cellular and Wi-Fi if a network becomes strained.
“What you’ll see long term is we’ll have more relationships with more carriers that enable that seamless roaming on the Wi-Fi networks and the cell networks,” he said.
Meanwhile, analysts expect modest growth in the next quarter and don’t foresee results from the new partnership to show up until the end of the year. The stock slide after the earnings were reported isn’t a good indicator, said Ladenburg Thalmann’s Hickman.
“This is a hiccup and (Boingo) got punished,” he said. “But we believe the stock isn’t nearly priced to where the company should be valued.”
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