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Fon pulls in $14M as it partners with Qualcomm and Facebook

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The crowdsourced Wi-Fi network Fon is about to find its way into a whole lot more routers, as Qualcomm(s qcom) and others have plowed $14 million into the Spanish company. Qualcomm will bake Fon functionality into its Atheros wireless chipsets. What’s more, there’s a “social music” Fon router on the way, and the firm has struck a partnership with Facebook (s fb) to help users share their data connections with their friends.

Fon lets users share each others’ connections, and has spent recent years building up a series of partnerships with carriers, many of whom see value in helping users more easily offload cellular data to fixed-line connections. Its most recent signing was South Africa’s MWEB. Fon reckons it has major coverage in 1,000 cities — it has 12 million hotspots and grew 50 percent last year — and is currently making inroads into the U.S. market.

As per Monday’s announcement, Fon will in the first half of this year launch a new Fonera “social music” router using one of those Atheros chipsets. According to Fon, the router will “combine social WiFi with social music.” Wi-Fi router manufacturers who go with widely-used Atheros chipsets will get to tap into Fon functionality using the Atheros SDK, which should help expand the network’s reach.

According to Qualcomm Ventures Senior Director Miles Kirby:

“Fon’s unique approach to crowd-sourcing Wi-Fi is going to play an increasingly instrumental role in the future of mobile data… Qualcomm is leading the 1000x mobile data challenge, and Fon fits perfectly into our vision to solving the increasing demand for data.”

Facebook users who also have Fon functionality in their home network will be able to share connectivity with friends without having to give out their passwords – the friends can just log on using their Facebook credentials, based on the fact that they’re friends on the social network as well as in real life.

Deutsche Telekom, one of Fon’s partners, also participated in the funding round, as did Google(s goog), Index Partners, Coral and Atomico.

3 Responses to “Fon pulls in $14M as it partners with Qualcomm and Facebook”

  1. elfonblog

    David, I have blogged about Fon for many years. One thing I can tell you is to never trust their press releases, and never trust what Varsavsky’s wife tells you (as “USA CEO”). If you can’t find independent confirmation, then pass on it. The numbers they state, the dates they name, and the scope of their success doesn’t even match up with their statements from previous times. We put a lot of effort into finding out what their participation and churn rates were, and we were appalled at the linguistic gymnastics necessary to make their claims halfway truthy.

    In short, Fon tricks it’s customers into paying for their infrastructure; the routers, the Internet backhauls, etc. Foneros likely won’t be paid for supplying wifi, due to abundant loopholes. Fon’s “partners” get to use fon hotspots for free, in non-reciprocal agreements that Foneros can’t opt out of. Fon retains 2/3, not 1/2 of the money collected, and is hostile to inquiries why. The vast majority of it’s members are customers of it’s “partners” who are opted in. Many more are fake email addresses entered for free wifi sessions. Fon isn’t a wifi-sharing company, it’s a rebadged merchandiser who sells their customer’s resources in return for “partnerships”.