TechDirt analyzes email from Wayport stating that its partnership with Concourse for access in La Guardia and Minneapolis-St. Paul collapsed: This is the kind of growing pains one might expect, but it's still surprising. The relationship among the various parts in an airport Wi-Fi service operation is pretty complicated. Concourse Communications contracts with the airport for a long period, several years or even decades, as the company told me a few weeks ago. Concourse has the rights to run the infrastructure, but has to meet various obligations.
Concourse, in turn, needs to derive enough income from reselling access to the network. It charges Wayport (and a few other partners). Wayport itself resells access to aggregators. Lots of pieces, lots of middlemen, but only marginal returns.
Somewhere in this value chain, the amount of money Concourse needed and Wayport offered didn't mesh. It must have been a pretty tense situation given that Wayport outed the situation.
How does this affect Wayport? It reduces their value advantage from several airports to a handful. When I was researching the New York Times piece I wrote about Wayport a few weeks ago, I found out that Wayport's own contracts with its own airports (Seattle, San Jose, Oakland) are of relatively short duration or near expiration--though they can be renewed or extended.
Likewise, Concourse already dumped iPass from Minneapolis and now Wayport. Concourse has to have a reasonable partner through which to resell service. The Techdirt folks speculate that this might be a move that separate venues into premium locations where users get gouged and other venues that offer subscriptions.
Here's the flaw in that issue. Yes, Wi-Fi promotes the notion that broadband is better. But if captive venues gouge, then perhaps the rising 2.5G flavors topping 100 Kbps will become a reasonable alternative.
I keep saying that there's a set of dials for ubiquity, speed, and cost. You can twiddle them for various offerings. Cell data right now is ubiquitous, slow, and slightly expensive, but for some people, the ubiquity makes it worthwhile. Wi-Fi is hard to find, fast, and relatively cheap or even free. If you turn Wi-Fi into expensive and fast and cell data is moderately priced (relatively) and moderately speedy, well, people don't need broadband constantly.
The captive venue has an advantage over places where people have choice, but I suspect that the actual end user price of service hasn't even started to hit bottom in the hot spot market. Direct hot spot revenue is in a race for a marginal return, and will continue in that decline to compete against rising cell data offerings. Gougers will be routed around.