RDU travelers will get free Wi-Fi

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comApril 20, 2012 

Raleigh-Durham International Airport will provide free wireless Internet service for travelers starting this summer.

Boingo, which operates Wi-Fi service at 60 American airports, will go online at RDU by July 2.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 travelers now pay AT&T for Wi-Fi at RDU each month, at $7.99 for a 24-hour session. When Boingo takes over, RDU customers will have the option of free Wi-Fi with video advertising or a premium, ad-free service for $7.95.

The paid service is for business travelers and power users who want a guaranteed high bandwidth for downloading fat files and accessing corporate networks while they wait to board their flights.

“But I would think the majority of people on that complimentary service should be able to do whatever they need to do – reading emails, surfing the Net and those types of activities,” said Mike Landguth, the airport director.

Here’s how the new service will work:

• Free Wi-Fi. Airport travelers who log on for free will see a 30-second advertising video before they can start checking email and surfing the Web. The free session will end after 45 minutes, but the user will be able to log on again for repeated sessions. Free users will enjoy a minimum bandwidth of 768 kilobits per second.

• Paid Wi-Fi. A 24-hour session will cost $7.95, with no advertising and a minimum bandwidth of 1.5 megabits per second. The payment will be good for a single 24-hour period at RDU and at other Boingo airports. Boingo also offers Wi-Fi subscriptions for $9.95 a month.

Boingo will pay RDU 55 percent of its revenues or a minimum of $150,000 a year for the Wi-Fi concession.

PCWorld magazine gave RDU high marks last year for fast Wi-Fi download speeds, but passengers have long complained about having to pay for the service.

“I’m trying to log on now to see if the service is free,” traveler Dan Donovan of Manchester, N.H., said Thursday afternoon, peering at his laptop in the Terminal 2 ticketing hall. “It’s not free? Well, I won’t be using it, then.”

Donovan, 42, travels frequently on business but says his employer won’t reimburse him for airport Wi-Fi.

“Today I’ve got four hours before my flight, and I’d love to get some work done,” he said. “That’s not going to happen now, with a pay service.”

He was glad to hear of RDU’s plan to join his hometown airport at Manchester in providing free Wi-Fi. “It’s a good decision on their part, I think,” Donovan said.

Siceloff: 919-829-4527

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