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.”