30 Comments

Summary:

So finally, the news has been PR-sanitized. British Telecom (BT) has made it official that it is investing in Spanish Wi-Fi sharing service, FON, and will also make an investment in the company. I had reported this back in March, so am not quite surprised by […]

So finally, the news has been PR-sanitized. British Telecom (BT) has made it official that it is investing in Spanish Wi-Fi sharing service, FON, and will also make an investment in the company. I had reported this back in March, so am not quite surprised by the news. FON is having a big party in London to celebrate, and I am going to be there, if only to ask Martin Varsavsky the question: Is he really paying $8-to-$10 per BT customer who turns on the FON client? Now that is one way to spend the VC dollars and get a bigger footprint!

Martin’s blog post details the news. Also, some expanded thoughts from Connected Internet, which asks the relevant questions but gets no answers from BT. For instance:

* What will be the coverage targets be for BT FON?
* How much bandwidth will each BT FON customer be asked to share?

I will add one of my own: How does a BT-FON combo overcome the footprint issues? I have tried the FON routers and the usage experience…. ahem!

Update: Varsavsky denies that BT is paying for FON client installs…and Om is doing some additional reporting and will update the post again shortly.

Update#2: Martin Varsavsky writes on his blog that he is not paying BT, and he has emailed and assured me of the fact, and that my sources are off base on this information.

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  1. martin varsavsky Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Om, I love you and your blog but your comment that we pay BT per each BT Fonero is so not the case! Imagine they have 3 million hubs, how could a company that has raised 28 million so far and is not profitable pay potentially 30 million to BT? Of course we are not paying them anything. We are sharing revenues from Aliens with them.

    BT Foneros share at least 512k and as far as the percentage of BT customers who will opt in to be BT Foneros I really don´t know how many BTFonspots we will get but think that The Cloud has less than 10K and we will probably do over that in a week. And then BT has the best hotspots in railway stations, airports and WiFi cities all available to BT Foneros…

  2. Fractals of Change Thursday, October 4, 2007

    FON and BT – Wifi Today; Mobile Tomorrow?

    A deal announced today between British Telecom and upstart FON allows BT’s Internet customers to share their own broadband connections via WiFi and, in turn, be able to access WiFi free at “thousands” (doesn’t say how many) of FON hotspots arou…

  3. Telecom Incest: The Fon-BT Deal Sounds Screwy Thursday, October 4, 2007

    [...] Fon and British Telecom sounds like it could be a costly one for Fon and its investors. GigaOm is suggesting that Fon may have agreed to pay $8 to $10 to BT for every one of its broadband customers who agrees [...]

  4. Why so negative? I think the deal is cool! Hope they replicate in the US soon, so we also get proper mobile internet! My opinion regarding the fee per user. a) dont think so b) highly unlikely that a public person like Varsavsky would publicly lie about this. A lot of reputation at stake. Dont you think so?

  5. That’s so great Martin… I’m a huge fan of FON and its great to see you doing so well

  6. Om,

    Please do that “additional reporting” pretty quickly. Your insider info is so blatantly false, undocumented and, as such, irresponsible that your savvy tech insider blogger journalist reputation is on the line. Come on, Om, a little respect to the people who read you.

  7. Now for the important questions: will you have the chance to attend a proper football match – or live cricket?

  8. this article is crappy bullshit and very very unserious. no recherche. not time ? confused? also the second question about bandwith could easyly be answered, if you had studied the FAQs section in http://www.btfon.com. be ashamed. its a great blamage.. not for FON, but for YOURSELF! :((((

  9. oh….all the fon shills are having a field day. Anyone with a modicum of biz sense knows that Fon is the biggest joke in the Silicon Valley

  10. This spells the end for Whisher. No one is going to be able to compete with this type of team effort. I put a post on their http://blog.whisher.com/ linking to the good news regarding Fon & BT, however it would seem they choose now to censor any comments they don’t like, but then I suppose their drowning their sorrows and might not have checked their mail

  11. To La Vista:

    First of all my colleague Mike moderates the entries both in the blog and the forums, and since these days he’s in London (FOWA) it will take some hours before he can look at them.

    Secondly, why does this spell the end for Whisher? I don’t quite understand it yet…we have money in the bank and a very cool product, so I doubt this is the end for us, sorry for that :-).

  12. As much as Fon, as much as BT? No way. All VC cash and sure no one can believe that you have anything close to even what Fon has alone.

    While many have negged Fon, this partnership just shows really how viable one of the worlds biggest telco’s sees Fon. Their structure (Hardware) gives a more robust and professional feel to it than flaky software like Whisher.

    Finally the professionalism shown by Martin, and his excellent track record makes it even more attractive to the likes of BT. Other ISP’s will follow like sheep… to me, that spells the end of Whisher, but you could prove me wrong

  13. leightoncooke Friday, October 5, 2007

    Seems like a good deal for Foneros as BT has loads of hotspots in public places like airports in the UK. The wireless internet is here to stay and this is probably only the first of many such deals in the future.

  14. One comment in general: you now bash Om for putting in doubt Fon and/or its model, and this particular deal – I didn’t see people criticize him on other occasions, when the reviews were more favorable. This shows that Om is balanced and fair, unlike some of the commenters I see on this (and our) blog.

    Putting that aside, La Vista (or whoever you are): we did not delete your comment, I was away and could not moderate it – it’s now on our blog, with the obvious shilling link removed.

    You talk about VC cash – Fon had a burn rate a few months ago (admitted by Martin himself, so please save the crap) of over 500k Euro per month – with that amount of money spent, it would be catastrophic if they did not have a couple of deals (which are all opt-in by the way, so also forget about the instantaneous 3 million hotspots).

    I cannot reveal burn rate numbers, but we’re doing as well as they were in their early days (which is where we are now, early days) with a minuscule fraction of what they have been spending.

    One last thing: you seem to forget that all these new WiFi spots can also be shared through Whisher, so no matter how much WiFi Fon puts out there…we can use all of it!

  15. To Mr Mike:

    You had better hope Fon do not block your server IP. If they do in their firmware, you have problems. A little bit like

    ‘Only thing I removed was your link, we’re not going to give them free publicity on our own blog now are we? ;)’

    As you said on your company blog

  16. WiFi Community FON Strikes Partnership With British Telecom

    Ever heard of FON? It’s a WiFi network, built, wonderfully enough, by individual consumers and small businesses in Europe and many other parts of the world.
    It works on a tiered system of paid and free access. If people opt in to become a &ldquo…

  17. So are you suggesting that Fon will start to block our IPs on the router’s -private- signal? As in, they will decide where the owner of a hotspot can or cannot go on his own connection? They will actually act as censors? Well, knowing their track record on their forums etc. it would not surprise me, but I’m not sure their users would be too happy about that. What next, they will start blocking blogs that do not their bidding?

  18. BT + FON = BT FON (Acaba de nacer!!!) Friday, October 5, 2007

    [...] Wired Blogs GigaOM TechCrunch FierceWireless FierceTelecom NewsFactor Silcon.com WirelessWeek Digital Trends [...]

  19. Mr Mike:

    Yes, if it would be censorship, but only blocking possibly illegal sharing of the connection. I guess BT/FON will only permit sharing ADSL via FON. So this would make using Whisher illegal no? Also this super move by BT and FON leaves Whisher with nearly no possibility of teaming up with an ISP to do anything similar. Shame

  20. Mike,

    A buddy of mine works for FON in Spain and when I asked if he had heard about your company he said didn’t know much about it because you guys had blocked their IP from connecting to your website so no one at the FON office could open your page. Hmm. Censorship?

    Hey, Om, where’s the update, buddy?

  21. Ryan,

    Yes, you’re right – this is a leftover from the time when Martin himself invited one of our sysadmins to Madrid to find out what we were doing, a few months before launching. It was such a nice gesture that we took the precaution of blocking FON’s IPs, and they were left there after launching. I’ll remove the firewall rules so that they can find out what we do (are FON employees banned from having internet at home?).

  22. Mike,

    Where is all FON-hate coming from? Every time the FON name comes up, you make little cheap shots at them. You know that hate yields bad karma? Sounding bitter is not sexy. I just imagine my buddy isn’t willing to spend his free time at home looking at your website. I hope you and FON succeed because more free and safe WiFi out there is good for everybody, right?

  23. Introducing the BT FON Community Saturday, October 6, 2007

    [...] Wired Blogs GigaOM TechCrunch FierceWireless FierceTelecom NewsFactor Silcon.com WirelessWeek Digital Trends [...]

  24. Ryan,

    It’s not hate – it’s receiving cheap shots whenever Fon makes a PR announcement, such as “This spells the end for Whisher. No one is going to be able to compete with this type of team effort” by ‘La Vista’ (look up), and responding.

    We could have posted some reply the minute Om’s article went up, but we honestly are not like that. We’re also not dumb, and will defend ourselves against unfounded comments like those seen in this post.

    I would love to put all bitterness aside and work to make free WiFi everywhere a reality, but so far it seems things are not likely to go that way. I’ve removed the firewall filters, so your friend can check us out Monday morning if he wants now, maybe that’s a start :)

  25. Mr Mike:

    Would you care to comment on what I said, that quite possibly the use of Whisher or similar my well be illegal, or do you just stick your head in the sand?

    You say “It’s not hate – it’s receiving cheap shots whenever Fon makes a PR announcement..” yet you fail to point out that you yourself fired so many shots at Fon & Martin through your http://www.tech.am/ blog, a long time before Whisher even appeared or was known of. Please do correct me if I am wrong here. You drew publicity and attention to the slightest error or failing, all documented in your blog and blew it in to a major rant. So when you posts about your flaky project with bad comments (Which ANYONE is entitled to make, it’s called freedom of speech) you cry like a school child who has been called nasty names, yet who was the first person to start calling them.

    Did you not take great pleasure in putting up this post about the Fon maps?

    http://tech.am/2006/09/25/the-real-fon-statistics-%e2%80%93-lies-manipulation-or-fantasy/

    And the death threat…etc..etc..etc.. you are actually very good at provoking trouble. You draw attention to someone else, but when the attention is on you, you do not like it at all.

    The same is true of your CEO with his “I founded Fon” story….. again, attention attention.

    Any rational person can see what I say is true and that if you wanted your “amazing, cool, the future” product to be taken seriously , and seriously buy not just users, but by ISP’s who’s suport you need, acting in such a manner that you have done does not make you or the company an attractive potential partner.

    To close, I tell you, I do not work for Fon and I am not a Fonero. I have no interest if Fon “wins” or fails, but I do have an interest in the story and have my views

  26. WiFi sharing is tolerated by most ISPs, but reselling their broadband (which is what Fon is doing) is -not- tolerated. What saves Fon is that they are too small for any ISP to bother, as they know the reality behind the hype. Fon has about 50k hotspots online, which split among various ISPs poses little threat to their income. They get more leeching from neighbors connecting to open WiFi than they would get from Fon.

    As for the other stuff, you don’t know the story behind Fon before it was launched, so you should better know your facts before accusing anyone of anything. Or, if you do know it, then you must be pretty close to Fon. I actually think you are Fon’s PR, but since you don’t post with a real name or a link to your site, there’s no way to know, is there?

    Quote: “You draw attention to someone else, but when the attention is on you, you do not like it at all.”

    Can you tell me when has this happened? I’m not sure what you are referring to. And if you followed my blog, you’d notice that most of my posts have nothing to do with Fon or Whisher (for which I get raps from Ferran all the time :)). Maybe you conveniently forgot, but I reported a security vulnerability to Fon that would allow anyone to reposition all the hotspots on their maps at will – had I been so vile as you say, would it not have been better for my “cause” to do that? Shame that Martin also conveniently forgot to make any mention of that:

    http://boards.fon.com/viewtopic.php?t=2375

    I even proved that the video of the melting Fonera was most likely faked, again, maybe in my evil master plan I should have molten a few more to draw more attention, right? I’m not going to carry on commenting on this, basically, because I don’t know who I am talking to, so feel free to carry on talking to yourself.

  27. It is obvious that you are now jittery and want to back away from all the provocations you initially made. You do so by saying that I am possibly a Fon PR person, however I am not affiliated with Fon, do not invest in Fon, etc. I am however someone who reads news,forums and blogs, has views and when there exists a method of placing my views I will use it if I feel I have a comment to make.

    The way you attempt to make me appear is like Spiderman, a secret person nobody really knows identity of. I am your normal Joe, having a normal job, living a normal life.

    Mr Mike, just because you reported a security issue about their maps does not mean you are being nice, you only used it as another method of making bad press for Fon.

    http://tech.am/2006/12/29/fon-ranked-the-worst-company-by-readers-of-el-mundo-spains-top-online-newspaper/

    Did your artistic sarcastic talents make that image? Please let us know….

    This blog is big enough for people to have the freedom to comment. I really am interested to see if others agree with me or not.

  28. Well but of course there is freedom to comment…but please stop calling me ‘Mr. Mike’, it sounds screechy. Jittery? I think you keep making stuff up to provoke me, based on what exact text from my last comment am I jittery? Please explain, for I must be dumb.

    You can link to all the critic posts I have made all you want, the fact is it’s my own private blog, where I can express my feelings. I have also said that Apple sucks for not having A2DP on their Bluetooth, that Logitech sucks, and so on. I call them like I see them.

    Again, if you’re an average Joe, why hide under some pseudonym? Why not show who you really are? Whatever you say to convince people you are not Fon PR is worthless, as long as you keep hiding behind ‘La Vista’. I saw one of the comments on our blog was from an IP located in Barcelona, maybe you could come for a coffee, rather than debating a third party on Om’s blog. Crap, you even got me to reply again, when I said I wouldn’t…

  29. [...] Fon and British Telecom sounds like it could be a costly one for Fon and its investors. GigaOm is reporting that Fon may have agreed to pay $8 to $10 to BT for every one of its broadband customers who agrees [...]

  30. now, whisher.com is history. whisher has disappeared. bye bye ….

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