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Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 2 months ago






In the freewheeling wireless era, the PC is in your pocket and the network is in the air. No surprise, then, that gadgets from Apple's iPhone to a Sandisk MP3 player are being built with Wi-Fi inside.


But finding a Wi-Fi signal when you need one can be a problem - and a big opportunity for Fon, a Spanish company that's building a global community of hotspots one router at a time.


The idea for Fon hit founder Martin Varsavsky in late 2005 while he was strolling through Paris with his PDA in search of a signal. Companies like T-Mobile were spending millions of dollars to build hotspot networks and charging dearly for access.


Varsavsky, however, saw the potential for a worldwide Wi-Fi network in the home broadband connections already in place. All that was needed was a service to tie them together.


Here's how it works: Fon sells a $30 wireless router to consumers. They hook it up, register their node, and agree to share their broadband with other "Foneros" for free. Those who want to charge outsiders for access can do so, and Fon gets a cut. Likewise, if someone wants to pay $2 or $3 to use the Fon network for a day, Fon takes a share of that revenue. Just over a year old, Fon's network boasts more than 70,000 hotspots. Initially focused on Europe and Asia, Fon plans a big push in the United States in the coming months.


Tell us what you think about Fon: Is the company a Web 2.0 winner?


Funding: $22 million (Google, Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Skype)


Founder: Martin Varsavsky (shown above)


Headquarters: Madrid, Spain


Employees: 90


Founded: 2006


Business model: Subscription, router sales


Bragging rights: 400,000 users (including 40,000 Americans added since October); signed as-yet unannounced deal with first major U.S. broadband service provider


Next up: In deal talks with U.S. cellular service provider


Contact: Faisal Galaria, fonus@fon.com






FON is the largest WiFi community in the world. Our members share their wireless Internet access at home and, in return, enjoy free WiFi wherever they find another Fonero’s Access Point.


It all started as a simple idea. Why should you pay for Internet access on the go when you have already paid for it at home? Exactly, you shouldn’t. So we decided to help create a community of people who get more out of their connection through sharing.


We call members of the FON Community Foneros. It’s simple to become a Fonero. You just need to buy La Fonera, which enables you to securely and fairly share your home broadband connection with other Foneros.


Then when you’re away from home and you need Internet access, just log on to a FON Access Point, and you can use the Internet for free. You don’t need to take your router with you – you just need to remember your Fonero login and password.


Visit our maps and find thousands of FON Access Points worldwide.


As the world of WiFi is growing, you can do more and more for free. For example soon we will launch the Skype FON - a cool WiFi handset that lets you make free Internet calls from any FON Access Point.



Individuals become entrepreneurs - and charge others for access


If you have broadband access and a WiFi network, you can share it with others, for free or a small fee. List your network on the site (it’s free). Then when someone comes to the site to search for broadband access and they find you, they’ll send you an email. You and the person can work out the details of sharing however you’d like.




Relations with ISPs


“We are in negotiations with 10 companies, and some of them like Speakeasy have give us go ahead,” says Varsavsky “To other we are saying we will share the revenues with them. I am sensitive with the ISP because I have worked in the ISP business.”


Officially, their statement is:

FON is not an Internet Service Provider (“ISP”). As a matter of fact we work closely with ISPs and partner with them, since in order for someone to become a member of the FON Community, he/she must first have a broadband connection contracted through an ISP. Hence, FON actively encourages and drives broadband adoption. This means that FON does not compete with access providers, but on the contrary, FON is great news for ISPs.


With FON, ISPs can bring more value to their customers at no extra cost, by providing broadband at home and offering access to the FON Community when away from home.


FON is currently talking to ISPs all over the world to join the FON community and FON is proud to have already signed agreements with the following top ISPs



FON provides clear benefits for ISPs:

Generate additional revenue through sharing Aliens’ revenues

Provide free WiFi roaming and a social networking platform at no extra cost

Differentiate their service offer from the competition

Increase broadband penetration especially in small businesses

Use of the FON platform to launch wireless services

Reduce churn and attract new customers by benefiting of the brand association with FON

All this at no extra costs for the ISP!



Venture capital funding


started by maverick entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky has just raised $21.7 million from Google, Skype, and Sequoia Capital. The cash infusion has been led by Index Ventures, the same company that had also backed Skype.


The company also announced that Danny Rimer (Index Ventures), Mike Volpi (Cisco) and Niklas Zennström (Skype) joined the board. Existing board members include Martin Varsavsky, FON CEO, and Antonio Fuentes, FON CFO. Danny Rimer, general partner at Index Ventures says, “In the same way that Skype filled a communications need, we believe that FON fills the need that people have of people getting connected to the Internet anywhere they go. Martin has created an elegant technology solution coupled with a highly viral community that could have the business impact on the broadband market that Skype has had on Internet communications.”


Why google and skype?

It does make sense, since Google has its own wireless and network ambitions, aka GoogleNet. I had initially written about FON back in December 2005. Similarly, for Skype, to not getting blocked by traditional phone operators is going to be a big issue as well.



The organization that was started in November this year is based in Spain, and in the simplest terms is “Skype+Boingo+Open Source” but only in a WiFi context. Here is how it works. You go and download the software from the website, and update your WiFi router’s software. (Only works for routers that use linux for now). The software update allows you as a consumer to share a certain portion of your bandwidth to a “FoN” network. Essentially what it does is turn every router into a hot spot.


we will sell pre-configured routers for $25, so it will be a plug-and-play router and you can quickly become a Fonero,” he says. He says the company is going to make it easier for others to tweak their routers. In addition, he acknowledged that ISPs were going to be tricky, and he is working with about ten of them to figure out the details. Up until all issues are resolved, the “sharing”is the only option for users, and FoN is staying away from the “billing etc.”


Sharing Wi-Fi


I suppose the Sony Playstations can participate too.


So we’re headed for a ubiquitous wifi network. Anywhere you can place a wifi chip, you can extend the network. Cars could have them too, if mobility can be solved. Until then, any stationary device with a wifi chip can be a node on the wireless wifi network, as long as it’s wifi and enabled to share.


Makes sense. I like it. Wifi everywhere.







The idea has started to attract others as well. Wibiki is another such project. Sharemywifi.com is the latest to enter the space as well and seems to be a copycat of FON. Meraki is another that seems similar







Fon as a grassroots effort seemed to me to be headed to the same dustbin that led other companies to abandon trying to get individuals and small businesses to install hardware that would turn them into hotspots. Let’s face it: most locations that are good for a hotspot are either already under contract, don’t want it, or are complicated. Someone’s house in the suburbs or an apartment in Manhattan are probably bad hotspots for different reasons. But if Fon is going to use the money and connections it now appears to have to seed its network, there’s more of a likelihood of it working, especially given what seems to be a very high commitment to signing up ISPs instead of signing up users and having them worry about whether their ISP finds Fon appropriate or not. To date, it’s been quite tricky to set up a hotspot with authentication (user accounts and billing) without either having enough traffic to warrant a for-fee provider setting up your service, or, if you don’t want to charge, without either taking on all the tasks yourself (and not using accounts) or paying a managed provider $50 per month to be part of their system and have them handle tech support. So Fon could fill a gap if they put out thousands of hotspots into cities that have gaps, and work with ISPs as a way to let customers easily build networks. I’m still pretty dubious about the notion of every home being a hotspot because that requires incredible luck and coordination to get continuous zones of coverage, and outdoor coverage really requires antennas — not just an access point in the window.



Latest news


Fon Inks Deal With British Telecom


Posted: 04 Oct 2007 07:11 AM CDT


picture-181.pngSpanish WiFi startup Fon is invading England. In its quest to turn everyone’s home and business WiFi router into a worldwide network of shareable hotspots, Fon just inked a long-rumored deal with British Telecom. BT’s three million broadband customers in the UK can now opt to join the Fon network, which gives them access to 190,000 WiFi hotspots around the world. BT joins Time Warner Cable in the U.S., and French broadband provider Neuf in endorsing Fon’s WiFi-sharing across their customers.


Most ISP service agreements still ban customers from reselling or sharing their broadband connection. But Fon is convincing some ISPs that it might actually be a selling point to be able to tell customers that included in their home broadband bill is access to free WiFi when they travel across town or across the world. Fon claims its network of WiFi hotspots is already the largest in the world. Investors in Fon include Google, Sequoia Capital, and Index Ventures, and now BT as well.

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