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Summary:

Australia’s Telstra has announced plans for a massive nationwide Wi-Fi network to take the load off its 4G network, and Fon’s Wi-Fi-sharing system will be part of it.

Fonera Scale shared Wi-Fi router

The “crowdsourced” Wi-Fi outfit Fon may currently be most interesting for the release of its Gramofon social music router, but at the core of it Spain’s Fon is all about the number of users it has making up its global Wi-Fi sharing network. That number is usually boosted by major deals with internet service providers, in which those ISPs’ customers choose to open up part of their broadband capacity to passers-by, and here’s a big one: Australia’s Telstra.

On Tuesday Telstra, which is Australia’s largest ISP, announced a new national hotspot network, with Fon baked into it from the start. The plan is to create 2 million new Fon hotspots over the coming years by harnessing customers’ home routers, and through the creation of 8,000 new Telstra hotspots.

That means non-Telstra customers should get to use these hotspots cheaply while travelling Down Under, while Telstra customers who have agreed to share their routers will get to use Fon’s 12-million-hotspot-strong network while abroad, along with other Teltra customers’ connections back home. Any usage will just come out of their standard home broadband allowance.

The network will launch early next year. In line with many other ISPs’ strategies around the world, a big driver here is offload – Telstra wants customers to hook up their mobile devices to fixed-line connections wherever possible, in order to ease the load on the carrier’s 4G mobile network, and also to create capacity for all those connected “internet of things” sensors on the horizon.

As Fon COO Alex Puregger said in a statement:

“We’re really happy to bring the Fon experience to Australia. Working with Telstra is a huge achievement for us. Not only because it means that we are now expanding our network to a new continent, but also because Telstra has been a global leader in LTE deployment. It emphasizes our view, that LTE and WiFi are complementary technologies, both needed to address future growth of mobile data demand.”

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  1. Fon mainly profits by seeking partnerships with telcos who have existing wifi networks. Fon provides that telco with free access to all of it’s own native Fon hotspots in return for boasting rights. Foneros (the folks who bought native Fon equipment) get no say in this. They’ve essentially been bilked into paying for Fon’s equipment deployment and network backhaul. The gargantuan majority of “Fon hotspots” are really these other telco’s partnered hotspots. Again, the partnership does NOT give Foneros equal access. Foneros cannot profit from wifi sales because there are so many loopholes. Can you make up a fake email address? Free “trial” wifi for you today! Then, Fon seizes 2/3 of the revenue and gives you the mad runaround when you ask them to explain why.

    Fon’s native equipment is rebadged factory extras from companies like Accton. The best explanation for Fon’s random foray into routers with features like bittorrent, audio jacks, etc., is because this is was what was available through liquidation markets on a given day. They just need to orange up the web interface and viola, a Fon router.

    I was Fon’s most-read English fan blogger at http://elfonblog.fondoo.net before I gave up on Fon. Every announcement was insulting wordplay that always meant something other than the reasonable conclusion. And then the outright lies. Francofon probed Fon’s network and got the real numbers. Half of ‘La Fonera’ routers never got registered. Half were given away. Most of them were long offline, though Fon still kept them on their live hotspot map. Very foolish of them to do this. My own Fon hotspots were dead 5 years and were still on the map.

    Years later, I read Fon’s new announcements and re-written back history from naive reporters, and it makes me really pissed. If you’re going to report about Fon, you have GOT to find independent confirmation. Also, ask your friendly Fon rep if she’s CEO Martin Varsavsky’s wife, and if she knows that the story she’s been asked to give you is a complete fabrication.

    Click David’s link to the pointless Grammofon thing above to see more details about Fon in the comments section. Raise your hand if you want your idiot friends on Facebook choosing the music that plays out of the speakers on your desk or laptop. *facepalm*

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