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JiWire, the location-based advertising company that uses WiFi networks to locate users and deliver ads, has signed a deal with Advanced Wireless Group to provide free WiFi services in airports in the U.S. The deal will cover 293 million passengers annually and includes major hubs like San Francisco, Los Angeles International, Minneapolis and Baltimore- Washington. This is an extension of a previous deal between the two for advertising services, JiWire says.

Free WiFi has become nearly standard in U.S. hotspots, with some 81% of them now letting users get around paying for Internet access. In fact, this, combined with existing cellular data plans, has made it almost impossible for companies that charge a fee for WiFi access to make any business. JiWire’s figures estimate that less than 1% of consumers connect to the Internet when WiFi is charged, whereas free networks average more than 10 times the number of users consuming more than 20 times the bandwidth. That, combined with the captive audience aspect of airports, spells advertising opportunity.

While some businesses simply foot the bill themselves in order to attract customers, the revenue model behind services like JiWire’s is that the connection is free to run for the business because the network becomes an avenue to deliver advertising. This is effectively the online media equivalent of when a soda company provides a convenience store with a free, branded refrigerator, or a bar has outdoor umbrellas with a drink company’s branding on it.

The login screen at airports looks like this:

JiWire has worked with a number of brands to deliver ads over their free WiFi-based ad network, Ads for Access, which has been in operation since 2009, including Google Play, Microsoft, Hyatt, Comcast, and British Airways. Advertiser sponsorship components, JiWire says, include watching a video, performing a search, downloading an app, or linking to a brand’s Facebook page.

AWG has been offering WiFi in airports since 2004.

“Consumer demand for free Wi-Fi continues to grow exponentially in our venues as new mobile devices saturate the market,” Scott Phillips, President and CEO at AWG, in a statement. “JiWire has proven their ability to engage high-end corporate sponsors and advertisers who desire a direct audience with our valuable audience of consumers in airports. Our customers are happy to engage with the sponsor for a brief period as an alternative to paying for fast Internet access which makes this a win-win for all involved.”

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