LIVE FROM MWC LAS VEGAS 2023: Boingo Wireless CEO Mike Finley (pictured) marked the near 40 year anniversary of the first commercial mobile phone call during his keynote, while putting a very modern spin on market evolution by offering insight on the rapidly changing use cases for private networks.

Finley referenced a call made in the car park of Soldier Field stadium in Chicago on 13 October 1983. The call was made on a DynaTAC phone (invented by Marty Cooper ten years earlier) from former Ameritech (then part of AT&T) president Bob Barnett to the great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, the man widely credited with patenting the first mainstream telephone.

Boingo Wireless has a close connection to Soldier Field, home of NFL team Chicago Bears, having provided connectivity to the stadium for almost twenty years. Recently it switched on 5G at the venue, offering fans the opportunity to stream instant replays, use mobile ticketing and contactless concessions.

“Going to a game, not only does your phone get you in and get you contactless entry and concessions, it can be a much more immersive experience for the end user. All of our venue partners, specifically in sports and entertainment, want to create a capability for their end users to experience not just the event but to get it in so many different ways. They are going to deliver benefits through AR and VR,” he explained.

Private networks evolving
Finley went on to reflect how use cases for private networks outside of event venues are fast evolving.

“Currently we are in a large number of airports and train stations. We can take a network that’s a combination of wi-fi and cellular and add on private services to that. Historically we’ve basically provided coverage to the jetway, and not on the plane or tarmac, but now customers want it all over. Airports also want to be able to do it for baggage handling, for safety and security, having security cameras in the bowels of the airports and train stations.”

The military is one area that Boingo is seeing growing demand for private network connectivity. The company supports close to 90 military bases, supplying connectivity to barracks with over 400,000 beds.

Finley noted that during the covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, it became important to extend connectivity beyond the barracks.

“I didn’t realise how much training goes on military bases in classrooms. When Covid hit they couldn’t go somewhere for that training so we had to create connectivity for quarantined troops.”

He also highlighted how Boingo is supporting AR and VR flight and operation use cases for military sites, for example at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

“The troops are getting educated in real time. The high speed, the security aspect of private networks and bringing all that together is really making a big difference.”