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Summary:

A few weeks ago I wrote about FON, a WiFi services company that planned to use open source and sharing principles to do an end run around the incumbents. The idea is to download a piece of software that is loaded into the wireless router and […]

A few weeks ago I wrote about FON, a WiFi services company that planned to use open source and sharing principles to do an end run around the incumbents. The idea is to download a piece of software that is loaded into the wireless router and allows for wireless Internet access sharing.

FON has had mixed reactions. Folks like Glenn Fleishman think it won’t work. Others do. Since then another FON type project has emerged: Wibiki. But back to FON, I had wondered what if the FON concept could be married to bigger wireless plays like the ones planned by Google. Apparently, someone was thinking along those lines.

Drison writes that “Martin Varsavsky (the Fon movement leader) has met in several occasions some Google directors (and even Larry Page y Sergey Brin, its founders)” and has talked about the project. Martin, apparently has met with others including Yahoo. Ejovi Nuwere, FON’s man in US writes on his blog that he and Martin met with Sergey Brin sometime in December. Martin posts about this here, though really doesn’t say much.

What do you make of this, my ultra smart readers? Worth keeping an eye on?

PS: I am down with flu, again… so that explains slow posting.

  1. Google will probably release its own tool that is downloadable to PC, something like http://fileforum.betanews.com/detail/2hotspot/1137097819/1 that work with any router. Fon & Wibiki work only with Lynksys. You can’t get world domination married to one router vendor…

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  2. I met some of the FON guys at Les Blogs. I like their product, although for me it suffers two, possibly three issues:

    1) FON’s service-base is critically flawed in that it only works on Linksys routers. As much as I love what Linksys have done with opening their firmware, I doubt many other manufactures will do it. That means a limited number of installations where FON will ever work.

    2) If FON (or any other similar service that piggy backs domestic ISP’s) was to get highly successful, I can see ISP’s simply changing their T’s & C’s to ban such services from using their network. This would be to protect their portion of the wireless ISP market and also keep their costs down (they assume only normal ‘domestic’ use of broadband connections in their cost analysis).

    Because of these issues (but especially #1) if Google was going to get into this market, I can see them simply releasing their own router which is setup out of the box.

    Google have a history in providing hardware (eg Google Search Appliance), and they’re big enough to make this method viable. I also think it would enable them to gain a critical mass that FON will not be able to achieve due to the restrictions as to which router they can work with.

    Which leads to the question, “so what have FON got that Google couldn’t setup themselves in just a few days?”.

    For this reason, I can’t see FON and Google tying up.. I can’t see what’s in it for Google.

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  3. The Raiuz.com guys has been at it for over 2 years trying to get funding and critical mass. . . still trying I’m guessing . . . this might be something the hardware players can get together and create themselves since they control the firmware.

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  4. Ben, i dont think the ISPs or Telcos need to change their TOS; since you cant “rent, lease or sublease” your connection you’re already breaking the rules… sure, they wont pursue you as the RIAA.. but, if they want to sue you they’ll have the TOS on their side.

    Which brings me one question, Who will be responsible for your “disconection”? FON? I dont think so… they will need a small-medium size ISP to rely on… to offer “customers” a secure alternative if the ISP shuts down your conection im not even thinking what will happen if you get sued

    On the other side.. if this become a truly successfull busines.. What will keep the incumbents out of this game? I mean, just image Comcast in the US or Telefonica in FON’s Land.. replacing all their modems with WiFI routers and making it available to your customers, just authenticating them with their own central database… in a blik you’ll get a lot more hotspots open than you can imagine.

    And this is a network game, i mean.. i love the community idea.. but hey if I can only get 100 hotspots per country.. i wont even think of this.

    And OM.. i think Sergey and Larry meet with a lot of people; but if they made GSA… what can fon offer to them?

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  5. If you would like to talk in person about FON I invite you and your readers to meet in San Francisco on January 25th at the O Reilly Emerging Telephony Conference. http://conferences.oreillynet.com/pub/w/44/speakers.html
    After having founded http://www.viatel.com, http://www.jazztel.com and http://www.ya.com I do think that we have a great plan to get FON going in Europe and I am looking to turn my session into an interesting brainstorming on how we can make our proposition of “sharing bandwidth at home and have bandwidth everywhere” valid in the States. In the meantime I can disclose that we are in active conversations with ISPs around the world including American ISPs to show to them how FON is a very valuable proposition to them. Also we are getting amazing advise from our American Board. Our American Foneros are Ejovi Nuwere, Dan Gillmor, David Isen, Wendy Meltzer, Joichi Ito, Andrew Rasiej, Rebecca MacKinnon, David Weinberger and Jerry Michalski. This group collective experience is highly relevant for the FON movement.

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  6. Wi-Fi is in a similar position as the early days of cellular – before there were robust roaming agreements that made going from one network to the next invisible. It’s just a matter of time before the Boingo’s (25,000 hotspots), Airpaths (via their interroam platform there is access to tens of thousands) or iPass (35,000 hotspots) – or some combination of this type of service and someone like that make all this talk about FON and wibiki nothing more then noise in the background. Add those three alone together – and don’t even talk about T-Mobile (yeah, there aren’t many Starbucks or FedEx/Kinko’s out there, right?) and we are looking at numbers that are approaching 100,000. It doesn’t matter if the Boingo and iPass hotspots are double counting – it’s the fact that mass aggregation is just now happening. As soon as it makes financial sense the players will move from the aggregation mode to either consolidation (iPass buys Boingo for it’s customer base) or much larger scale inter-roaming happens.

    I know, I know – they’ve been talking about it for a while now. Realize though that there had to be a sufficient business behind running hotspots before it made sense to even start worrying about things like roaming. With the acceleration of municipal Wi-Fi deployments it’s just a matter of time. I’m assuming (and it could be a big assumption) that EarthLink has that part covered in their Philly biz plan.

    Ubiquitous access of one type or another is important before you even need to think about roaming – who cares about the roam when you only have access to wi-fi infrequently? And in that same thought of ubiquity – where are the FON hotspots going to be? Heck, if they aren’t where I need them to be then why sign up? Unfortunately major players have already grabbed up the choice real estate. I guess that FON could attempt to become that integrator of integrators – bridging the Boingo’s to the T-Mobiles to the Airpaths to the iPasses of the world. Now THAT would be an accomplishment and a business!

    It will be much easier to manage, efficient to deploy and financially viable to do it that way – from the top down. Aggregating individual users into a “collective” with the hope that it pays off in the end…..a non-starter in my mind.

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  7. The Raiuz[dot]com guys has been at it for over 2 years trying to get funding and critical mass… still trying I’m guessing… this might be something the hardware players can get together and create themselves since they control the firmware.

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  8. [...] FON is a really interesting company from Europe with some .  Essentially they are trying to create a WiFi network with smart safe sharing of all members connections.  This sort of last mile option for Google is a good one especially when combined with the back haul fiber they have brought up.http://gigaom.com/2006/01/13/fon-goes-to-google/ [...]

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  9. [...] I had reported a few weeks back that FON was meeting with Google, but to get funding from them is a big surprise. 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. [...]

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  10. [...] (and neither, apparently does TechDirt’s Glenn Fleishman who thinks it won’t work, while Om Malik isn’t so sure himself). Tags: FON, Venture-Capital, investment, WiFi, broadband, cingular, sprint, verizon, Sequoia, Categories: Uncategorized, Google Mobile, Announcements, Analysis | Bookmark this post with del.icio.us [...]

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