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Summary:

The Wi-Fi-sharing community will gain a big boost through a tie-in with Deutsche Telekom’s operations in Germany and eastern Europe, while DT hopes the deal will take some of the strain off its mobile broadband networks.

Fon

It may not be the investment that was rumored earlier this year, but Deutsche Telekom has struck a deal with the crowdsourced Wi-Fi outfit Fon to provide coverage across Germany. This comes a month after Fon signed with a DT subsidiary in Croatia – a country, as we pointed out at the time, that DT sometimes uses as a testbed for new services that it intends to roll out more widely.

Fon is a community of people who submit their Wi-Fi hotspots for inclusion in a global pool. By doing so they become “Foneros” who let others use their Wi-Fi connections for free, and in exchange they get to do the same around the world. Due to ISPs’ terms and conditions, which generally forbid letting strangers onto customers’ connections, this idea works best in concert with the ISPs themselves – BT in the UK was a trailblazer here, and DT is certainly one of the biggest ISPs that Fon has landed.

The DT offering is called WLAN TO GO, and through it DT’s customers who offer up their own connection, will gain access to around 8 million hotspots worldwide. As DT itself has 12 million broadband lines and around 12,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, there’s clearly scope for major expansion of Fon’s reach too – this deal doesn’t just cover Germany, but also DT’s local subsidiaries in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.

For DT, there’s an extra motivation too: if its customers start using more hotspots, they will theoretically use less mobile data – a boon for networks feeling the strain of bandwidth hogs such as mobile video. Here’s how DT CEO Rene Obermann put it in a statement this morning:

“The partnership with FON fits perfectly with Telekom’s network expansion strategy. The astonishing increase in data traffic calls for network optimization and expansion, as well as the implementation of new high-speed networks.

“By the year 2016, we want to set up more than 2.5 million additional hotspots in Germany with the WLAN TO GO offering. With our technology mix of mobile communication, fixed lines and Wi-Fi, we can gradually introduce our customers to the benefits of internet access anywhere and anytime.”

  1. This is nothing. Fon is not “crowd sourced” whatever that term has been diluted to now. This is how Fon works: you buy their locked-down proprietary wifi router on the premise that you can use their payment system to resell your home Internet connection for a bit of cash. Unfortunately, Fon sets the price which is usually not competitive. Whether you’re in the USA or Europe, Fon gobbles 2/3 of the money collected, for themselves and for “fees and taxes” which they are hostile to itemize. Anyone who buys their Fon access at another hotspot gets to use yours for free because Fon cannot be bothered to work out percentages or to bill by the minute. Also, Fon promises you will be able to use other Fon hotspots worldwide for free. But Fon hotspots are very hard to find and their map shows “live” spots years after they’ve been shut down by unhappy members. Spots which are up are usually not in locations that provide good reception. Do you like parking on the street in front of people’s homes? Partnerships like the one you’re cheering are the very worst. You’ve bought their router, and you’re paying for your Internet connection, power, and providing the location. Then Fon turns around and gives free access to your hotspot to the members of OTHER hotspot networks in return for the right to claim they are part of the Fon network now. The deals vary, but they also include publicity and cash infusions. Fon exaggerates the size of their network myriad ways. They’re absolutely shameless about it. One of the ways they raise their “membership” count is to give free short wifi sessions to anyone who provides a string of letters that looks like an email address. They’re never verified, and you can keep doing it all day with little trouble. Believe you me, we members of the forum community thought everything through and let Fon know of any problems we discovered. And we were absolutely ignored. They eventually closed the old forum and started a new one with strict “praise and thanks only” rules, but it too is filled with unhappy people desperately trying to get Fon’s attention and make them see reason. Over they years Fon’s made so many claims which turned out to be the product of insultingly distorted definitions of things. If you have a keen interest in finding out what Fon is like to it’s members, see elfonblog.fondoo.net which I have preserved from better times.

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