In just the latest news, Wayport works with Zinio to offer digital magazines to Wi-Fi users: Wayport has gone from a who's-that company lost in Texas, known only to those of us who cover the industry closely, to a bold-faced firm in an article in Tuesday's New York Times business section filed by yours truly. The Times reserves bold face for company's of a certain nature or scale that deserve to be listed in their daily index.
Wayport was fairly adamant in early 2001 about their model: seize on chains, build their infrastructure mostly at Wayport's expense, and install more and more service. Even though Wayport was built on wired broadband, and apparently still realizes most of its revenue from the wireline in hotel rooms, Wi-Fi was part of the buzz.
Fast forward to a few months later, and partnership is the word of the day: open the network to partners, starting with iPass; open infrastructure costs to be shared with partner hotels. This strategy and the hospitality industry weakness slowed down deployment, but also reduced cash burn, clearly.
Their strategy from a partnership has paid off. Boingo founded its network firmly on Wayport's now 500-location-strong base, and GRIC, Sprint PCS, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, and other firms have no choice but to work with Wayport because they have the single largest airport and hotel footprint. No one else comes close to offering top-tier business locations.
Competition is nipping at the heels in the hotel world (STSN [several hundred locations, Intel investment], StayOnline [100+], LodgeNet [entertainment in 5,600 hotels]) and airport land (the self-same Sprint PCS, AT&T Wireless, and T-Mobile). The latest requests for proposals from both hotels and airports might be at a scale that Wayport, like some other firms, can't find a route to profitability through the commitment needed in the proposal to bear costs for many a year.
Can a private firm with multiple rounds of financing manage to counter a combination of up-and-comers at both the top and bottom end? Can their McDonald's test in San Francisco pay off big time and allow them to become one of, or, perish the thought, the provider for national McWi-Fi?
As I talk to analysts about the hot spot market, it's clear that eyes are on Wayport -- as an acquisition target by one of the cellular companies. This is speculation: no one has names or even a hint of a purchase being discussed. But a company with tens of millions in investment and tens of millions paid out in infrastructure needs an order of magnitude additional funding to fight the infrastructure battle against the cell operators and Cometa.
Wayport should be walking tall -- and looking over its shoulder.