Google acquires hotspot company Icoa, one of Boingo's long-running partners

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In its continued move into the realm of broadband services, Google on Monday announced it has acquired Icoa Inc., a Rhode Island-based "neutral-host broadband wireless Internet network provider," for $500 million. Icoa develops solutions for busy public wi-fi networks, like those in airports, hotels, colleges, and travel plazas and this acquisition will bring Google approximately 1,500 of these types of deployments across the country. Icoa's portfolio includes a back office operations system called TollBooth which deals with all of the transactional and network needs of an on-demand broadband (i.e. pay as you go) network including the all-important advertising.

In September of this year, Google announced a special deal with Boingo Wireless to give Android users free hotspot access at 4,000 Boingo sites. Icoa has been a partner network for Boingo since 2004, and the two companies have retained roaming agreements since that time.

In a 2011 SEC filing, Boingo Wireless described its roaming partnerships in the following way:

We rely on several of our competitors as partners in roaming agreements. The roaming agreements provide that our retail customers and our wholesale partners' customers may use the Wi-Fi networks of our partners. One or more of our partners may deploy competing technologies that could reduce the partner's need to work with us under a roaming agreement. If our partners decide to terminate our roaming agreements, our network of Wi-Fi hotspots may be reduced, which may result in a significant disruption to our business.

Boingo and Icoa are competitors in the space, and Google's acquisition of Icoa could shift the landscape of usage-based fee collection between the two companies.

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