Free Wi-Fi at the Oakland Airport

Wow! How often do I get to write about something in this City that I’m just completely over the moon about? Like, never. Until today! Starting today, the Oakland Airport is going to be offering free wi-fi! Free!

Besides Oakland, the airport I probably spend the most time in is Denver International. Conveniently, Denver International just so happens to be my hands-down favorite airport, for two reasons. One, the smoking lounges. There are (as far as I know) three separate places to smoke at DIA, two after you pass security. Denver isn’t the only airport with a smoking area, but unlike, say, Salt Lake City or Atlanta, it provides pleasant accommodations. Instead of those depressing, ventilation-less glassed-in rooms like most airports have, where you get nauseated just walking in them, Denver has bars where you can smoke! They’re spacious, well-ventilated, and comfortable. And you get table service. It’s great.

Anyway, the other reason I love the Denver airport sooo much is because they have free wi-fi. This is just sooo nice and eliminates one of my most stressful travel dilemmas. Like, if you get to the airport and once you get through security and get settled, you only have like 45 minutes before your plane boards, and you want to get some work done, is it worth paying the $7.95 it costs to get online? Hard to say. Or say you’re at the airport, waiting for your flight, killing time reading Cosmo, and you get a phone call asking if you’ve read a certain local weekly columnist today, because it’s even more ridiculous than usual. If it was enough to warrant a phone call, you figure it must be pretty damn good, but is it good enough to be worth the price of a day pass?

At Denver International, you never have to deal with these little crises. You can use the internet whenever you want. If all you want to do is send one e-mail, no problem! Pop open your laptop and hop online. It’s free! If there was bad traffic on I-70 and you only have a few minutes before your plane leaves, it doesn’t matter. It costs nothing to get online. All you have to do is watch an ad.

Anyway, every single time I find myself in the Denver airport, I say to myself “Denver is so the best airport, what with the smoking lounges and the free wi-fi. The Oakland Airport sucks. Oakland should totally get free wi-fi. And not close all the restaurants at the same time.” And now, part of my wish has come true. I’m so excited!

Oakland is using FreeFi, the same company that provides the awesome service in Denver. FreeFi has a three-year contract and will be using the wireless infrastructure installed by former wifi provider Sprint, and most recently used by Boingo. And this amazing service is only going to cost the Port $34,000 this year (PDF!). So totally worth it.

12 thoughts on “Free Wi-Fi at the Oakland Airport

  1. Max Allstadt

    A three year contract is about as long as I would condone. Smartphone saturation, 3G and WiMax availability will ramp up in the next five years to the point where wi-fi is obsolete. WiMax is ubiquitous long range (as in miles) broadband. By the end of the port’s 3 year contract with FreeFi, we can expect most new laptops to come with a WiMix modem built in and standard.

    For now, however, free wi-fi is just one more asset for our airport, one more way to keep it competitive. Good stuff.

  2. das88

    I think you have it backwards. Looking at the PDF FreeFi will pay the Port $50k. This increases to $60k in year 2, and $70k in year 3.

    It will cost the Port money in the sense that Boingo was paying them more per month, but that was only because Boingo was charging end-users a day rate. The new service will be entirely ad supported.

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    I wouldn’t call it backwards, das88. The Port is currently receiving $84,000/year from Boingo. Boingo offered to extend their contract and pay at an increased rate of $120,000/year. With FreeFi paying a permit fee of $50,000/year in the first year, this represents a real reduction in revenue of $34,000 and a loss of potential revenue of $70,000. Now, as I said in the post, I think the service is worth it. But it’s important to understand that there’s real cost involved.

  4. das88

    Wow, that is completely f-up’ed! I point out a simple correction, and you get all defensive, slam me down, and then go edit your post which makes me look silly.

    BTW, you still have it wrong. The Boingo agreement expired on Aug 31. Even before that Boingo had changed their fee schedule which resulted in them only paying the min annual guaranteed amount to the Port which last year was $57,600. So, by that measure it might cost the port $7,600 year. However, in the document, it is not clear if Boingo was willing to continue the arrangement. It makes it appear as if they were losing money on the deal.

  5. Becks

    Wow. I couldn’t be much more excited, as I spend far too many hours at the Oakland airport and always feel ridiculous when I have to pay for wi-fi. Now when my flight next week to DC is inevitably delayed, at least I’ll get to catch up on Oakland blogs while waiting.

    I don’t know if you’ve been to the Oakland airport recently V, but it actually is getting much better. The remodel is great, and I believe by now a bunch of the new restaurants are open (or should be really soon). I do agree though that it’s lame how early all the restaurants close so hopefully they’ll work on that soon too.

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    das88, I think you’re being over-sensitive. I was simply trying to explain my reasoning, not “slam [you] down”. I edited the post to change “per year” to “this year,” for clarity, not to make you look silly.

    In any case, the information I’m using about Boingo comes from the agenda report, on page 5 “Boingo proposed a $50,000 per year charge; it also offered to extend its existing fee-based service contract and increase its MAG from$85,000 to $120,000″ and page 9, under “Options”: “Extend the term of the existing contract with Boingo with an increase in the MAG from $84,000 to $120,000 and continue to charge users of WiFi services at the Airport either $7.95 per day or $4.95 per hour.”

    It’s kind of a minor issue either way. I’m happy about having free wifi, and I think the benefits far outweigh the revenue loss.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    Becks, the last time I was at the Oakland Airport was end of September. I almost never fly Southwest, so I’m usually in the other terminal, where, at least the last time I was there, renovations had not been completed. I agree that the renovation of the Southwest terminal is super nice. I particularly love the insane number of outlets available.

  8. Mike Linksvayer

    Yay free wifi!

    I don’t recall whether OAK has ample power outlets, but that’s the other key amenity any airport that wishes to stay competitive should offer.

    Now if only the new administration would tone down the security theater…

  9. oaklandhappenings

    V, I think that your “Oakland Airport Sucks” line is somewhat inaccurate. ANY airport which is a Southwest focus city/crew base has a good vibe to it! Secondly, several times when an airport has switched from one concessionaire to another, there have been construction delays. Delaware North Co’s contract ended at midnight of June 1st, when Host Marriot Services (or simply, Host), was awarded the rest of the airport at that time; they only had gates 26-32 in the new extension before that.
    In partial support to what you say, however, here it goes: I, like many, find terminal 1 depressing, and–with the exception of a few flights such as Jet Blue to JFK and Boston–find it almost worth avoiding most airlines there; Hawaiian is the only other exception. With one or two others so-so. US Airways is one of the worst.
    As for issues such as the music that is played, which another poster mentioned, I like–or love–lots of it! Lots of classic hits from the 60′s through 80′s (and well done, although istrumental), with a mix of jazz. Most passengers aren’t going to listen that carefully anyway, and the music is a way to keep the airport from being dead silent, aside from the repetitive p.a.
    announcements.
    OAK will never be what Denver is, as Denver–being a large market airport–is expected to have what they have; Oakland is thought of more of as a “reliever” to SFO, emphasizing in better airlines. I personally can’t stand United, which is hubbed in Denver and SFO.
    Sorry to be long, but just my 2-cents worth.

  10. das88

    I’m currently waiting for my flight at OAK and posting this using the free WiFi. The speed is not the greatest where I am at — just under 500kpbs. I am on my G1, though, which does not have a very good antenna.

    All in all, though, awesome.