Boingo CEO Says Huawei Ban Won't Delay U.S. 5G

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
June 3, 2019

By Rebecca Heilweil

Boingo is probably best known to consumers as the WiFi provider for surviving long waits at the airport, but the wireless company provides cellular and internet connection to all kinds of large-scale venues, from sports stadiums and train terminals to military bases.

Now Boingo wants to connect all of those spaces with 5G.

"As 5G comes in, all these locations where we have the rights and agreements with the operators, we'll be deploying there 5G as well," Boingo CEO Mike Finley, who recently joined the company from the chipmaker Qualcomm, told Cheddar. "If you go back to 4G, 4G took about four to five years for it really roll out and get all the infrastructure in place, and to get all the devices in place. 5G is coming a lot faster than that."

Compared to the big four mobile providers — AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint — Boingo is focused on building internet and cellular connections in crowded areas.

"It's not so much what we can do that they can't do, but we're neutral. So when you take a large venue like an airport or a stadium, we can work with all the operators and put in one system. In a lot of cases, wherever there's coverage we're providing it with one antenna, versus each of the operators having to do that themselves," Finley said. "At the end of the day, the user just wants connectivity."

But some are concerned that the banning of Huawei from business in the U.S. last month will lead the country to fall behind in 5G development.

The Chinese telecoms giant said in a statement that, "restricting Huawei from doing business in the US will not make the US more secure or stronger; instead, this will only serve to limit the US to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, leaving the US lagging behind in 5G deployment, and eventually harming the interests of US companies and consumers."

Huawei's 5G infrastructure has already been banned in Australia.

But Finley said that he wasn't worried that the ban could delay 5G deployment in the U.S. "If you look at we're at already, we're well ahead of where 4G was at this stage," he said. "With companies like Qualcomm, and the infrastructure providers that are already launching markets, networks, products, and devices, I don't think that will have much of an impact."

"We don't do any business with Huawei. We haven't had any business with them. We're primarily U.S.-based," Finley added.