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Can Boingo IPO before 4G and free Wi-fi make it pointless?

Wi-fi hotspot provider Boingo has filed to go public on the NASDAQ exchange under the ticker “WIFI” and is looking to raise $75 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Boingo operates around 211,000 Wi-fi hotspots around the world — most of which are in Asia. In fact, only around 15 percent of its active hotspots are in the United States. The company has a number of recurring payment plans that charge anywhere from $8 a month (for mobile devices) to $60 a month (for any device at an international hotspot) to access the Internet.

The filing shows that companies feel like there’s a window for IPOs right now and that the good performance of the tech industry during the recovery may be enticing to investors.

The Southern California-based company sees around 10 percent of its subscribers end up quitting the service each year — though those are replaced by new subscriptions. The had 54,000 subscribers in 2007, but grew to about 140,000 subscribers at the end of 2009. The company had 191,000 subscribers through its most recent operating quarter, which ended in September. The company’s churn rate (the rate at which old subscribers are replaced by new ones) has dropped to around 9.6 percent this year.

But Boingo does seem to be at least a little vulnerable to the free Wi-fi stunts pulled by companies like Google over the holidays. One company — normally Google — typically signs up with a few airports and other locations to offer free Wi-fi access. Boingo may have had 140,000 subscribers at the end of 2009, but the company only added 7,000 subscribers in the last quarter of 2009. It added 59,000 new subscribers in the first three-quarters before that. Boingo does list companies offering free Wi-fi as a significant risk for its future success.

Boingo hasn’t raised any money since it completed its third round of funding in 2006. It raised a whopping $65 million from New Enterprise Associates in August that year. But the company has quietly grown throughout the past several years, with its revenue up 16 percent from $56.7 million in 2008 to $65.7 million in 2009. The company brought in $20.2 million in its most recent operating quarter ending in September, up 23 percent from the same quarter in 2009.

The company is also on track to be profitable for the first year in the past several years — it hasn’t lost money since June in 2009. Despite the best attempts of companies offering free Wi-fi during the holiday season, Boingo made $1.5 million off $19.8 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2009. Its income for the most recent operating quarter ending in September was also up 237 percent to $2.1 million, from $626,000 in the same quarter in 2009.

Boingo is also pitching its services to wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon as a way to reduce the load on their 3G and soon-to-be 4G wireless networks. The looming roll-out of faster wireless networks and phones that act as mobile hotspots poses an obvious threat to Boingo. But then again, that’s not a bad way to spin it seeing as one of the largest complaints is the load at events where a lot of people are accessing wireless networks all at once. Boingo indicated that it wants to expand its service to public events like sports events and conventions in the filing.

Investors seem to be getting excited about the Internet again (a crazy notion, I know). Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank Securities, Pacific Crest Securities and William Blair & Company are listed as the underwriters for the public offering.

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