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Type Private
Founded 2005
Founder(s) Martín Varsavsky
Headquarters Flag of Spain Madrid, Spain
Key people Martín Varsavsky, Founder & CEO
Industry Computer hardware
Wi-Fi Network
Products La Fonera WiFi Router
Website Fon

FON (FON Wireless Ltd.) is a company that runs a system of shared wireless networks. The business was launched in November 2005.[1]

People can become members (called “Foneros” by the company) by agreeing to let FON share their wireless internet connection. Members need to purchase a low-cost wireless router (called “La Fonera”), which acts as a public internet access point; the device also creates a private network that can be used by the owner only. FON members can use any other FON access points free of charge.

Customers who do not share their internet connection (called “Aliens”) can buy internet access from FON for a daily fee. The members whose access points are used by a paying customer receive part of the revenue.


[edit] Company

FON (“FON Wireless Limited”) is a for-profit company incorporated and registered in the United Kingdom. FON, officially launched in February 2006. FON was created in Madrid, Spain by Martín Varsavsky where it headquarters most of its operations. FON also has subsidiaries and branch offices in the U.S.A, Spain, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. FON's investors include Google, Skype, Index Ventures, and Sequoia Capital.[2]

In February 2006, FON announced that it had received €18 million in equity financing from Internet giants Google, Skype and from the venture capital firms Index Venture and Sequoia Capital. In its first year of business, FON said that it was the world’s largest WiFi community, surpassing T-Mobile in Germany, and with a substantial global presence.[3]

In March 2007, FON announced an additional $13 million in equity financing from new investors and current investors. Among the new investors disclosed, were the Japanese companies BB Excite, Digital Garage, and Tsukumo. On October 4, 2007, it was announced that British Telecom had also joined its roster of shareholders.[4]

According to FON, the company's business model is based on selling internet access to non-members ("Aliens"). They try to attract customers by offering substantially cheaper access than traditional providers like T-Online that own the hotspots themselves. In an early interview, FON founder Varsavsky set a goal of 1 million user-run hotspots by 2010, creating considerable coverage. [5]

The business model depends on the goodwill of the Internet Service Providers, who may forbid connection sharing by their customers. For this reason, FON tries to reach agreements with service providers. FON maintains that its sharing model is actually beneficial for service providers, since a typical broadband subscription is cheaper than permanently using FON as an "Alien".[5]

FON also sells WiFi products through its online shop (in the US, the Fonera router is available through Dell's online store), the La Fonera router being sold at a low price (about €15 in Europe and $40 in the United States, as of early 2008). At an early stage, the routers were even given away for free in certain countries to quickly penetrate the market[6]. There are also various promotions where Foneras are available for free; these are often aimed at creating hotspots near strategic locations, such as public spaces or cafes[7].

[edit] Collaborations

The FON model depends on the users sharing their broadband internet connection. Not all Internet Service Providers allow this, and FON requires the users to check the ISPs terms of use before sharing their connection.[8]

FON tries to establish collaborations with ISPs (and other partners) to address this problem and to expand their hotspot network.

[edit] BT FON Community

On October 4, 2007, FON and British Telecom announced that they had jointly created the BT FON Community by flashing FON's software on all BT Total Broadband Wi-Fi routers in the UK. [9] This new Wi-Fi community invites 3 million of BT Total Broadband customers to opt into the FON Service, share their Wi-Fi at home and roam all of the BT FON hotspots in the UK and the FON Spots everywhere else in the world. As an incentive, BT FON members also receive limited free access to commercial BT Openzone wi-fi hotspots. Other Foneros can access BT FON hotspots at a discounted rate.[10]

[edit] Neuf WiFi FON

The BT FON announcement came days after FON and Neuf Cegetel launched the Neuf WiFi FON service whereby 600,000 Neuf WiFi boxes throughout France were flashed with FON software. Like BT FON, Neuf subscribers can also opt into FON to share and receive WiFi services.[11]

[edit] FON Cities

FON is also collaborating with various cities, municipalities, and communities to build citizen-generated WiFi access. Such initiatives include: Malaga (Spain), Lleida (Spain), Blanquefort (France), Tosca (Italy) and Oslo (Norway), Munich (Germany). [12]

[edit] Other

FON has also signed agreements other providers like Time Warner Cable, Interoute and Interlink.[13]

[edit] FON membership

Anyone can sign up to FON's service on the FON homepage. In order to share the internet connection (become a "Fonero"), the user has to acquire the "Fonera" router and install it as an access point, creating a "FON Spot". There is also a software called FonSpot that allows the user to create a FON Spot on a Mac or Linux computer.[14]

Foneros who share their connection may use all other FON Spots free of charge. A Fonero also receives a part of the proceeds from the access passes that are sold through his own FON Spot[15].

Payments to Foneros are made through PayPal; FON will pay into the user's PayPal account each time the Fonero has accumulated $// 20 in earnings.

Before June 2007 FON had a slightly different model where "Linuses" got free access to other FON Spots, but no money. "Bills", on the other hand, got money for the sharing but no free access to other FON Spots. FON has changed this to the current policy, where all members get both free access and part of the proceeds. Existing "Linus" users can easily change to the new model.

[edit] Paid access to FON Spots

A non member or “Alien” is anyone who connects to a FON Spot but does not share WiFi at home. An Alien may purchase daily access passes to use the FON network.

Access passes can be bought directly from the access point's portal page; it is also possible to register with FON from that page. Passes can also be pre-purchased and used at a later date. In Spain it is also possible to buy Passes by sending a text message from a mobile phone.

Once an Alien has registered with FON, they can use their FON username and password to access their own personal User Zone. In the User Zone, the Alien can retrace their WiFi activities through the FON Community. Including seeing how many FON Passes they have purchased, used and how many still remain.

Aliens can also get 15 minutes of free WiFi to any FON Spot by clicking on a FON promotional video. This is limited to one free 15 minute access per day, per user and device. Foneros can not disable the free 15 minute access period, for which they are paid $0.08.

When a Fonero has accumulated a total of $20 (in their local currency) through the 15 minute access periods and/or day pass sales, this amount is paid to their PayPal account.

[edit] Hardware

La Fonera

La Fonera (FON2100)
Manufacturer Accton
Type Wireless Router
Operating system OpenWrt
Power 5V (2100) - 7.5V (2200)
CPU 183MHz MIPS 4KEc V6.4
Memory 16 MB RAM
8 MB Flash
Connectivity Network, 802.11b / 802.11g
Dimensions 93.5 x 25.5 x 70 (mm) (excluding antenna)
Successor La Fonera+

Originally FON began with a software download for compatible routers, in particular, Linksys routers. FON called these routers post the installation of FON’s software, “FON Social Routers”. This is custom firmwares based on OpenWrt.

Fon started using the OpenWRT base as firmware base for Fon branded routers. The firmware has been customised specifically for use in the FON Community, allowing Foneros to share their broadband connection and to connect to other FON Spots around the world.

La Fonera firmware solves security problems by creating a private and a public network on the router. [16] The La Fonera protects the user’s connection with two separate type of SSIDs.

  • Private: one SSID is encrypted only for the user’s private use. Only users who use this can access the internal network, computers and files.
  • Public: a second one that requires web based Fon authentication and is for all other registered Foneros. With this only registered Foneros can access the FON Community, but cannot access the router owner’s private network. Only Foneros have passwords that connect to this signal. [17] The firmware and the routers are designed to download updates and configurations from the La Fonera website automatically.

[edit] La Fonera WiFi Router

The FON router is called La Fonera, and is available for purchase online at the FON Shop.

In simple terms, a WiFi router is a hardware device that when connected to a broadband connection emits a signal that can be picked up by WiFi enabled personal computers, laptops, and other gadgets (telephones, MP3 players, digital cameras, and game consoles). This permits Internet users to access the Internet without the need for cables to connect their devices directly to the broadband line. As a result, the WiFi router is in reality an Internet “access point”.

The La Fonera router is designed and manufactured by Accton. It comes flashed with the custom FON firmware, which employs security measures to prevent any unauthorized firmware modification. The router includes one WAN Port and a wireless antenna. It does not provide a method to connect a PC to the router. It can be connected to an existing network router or directly to a cable or DSL modem.

The device has a standard omnidirectional antenna (1.5 dBi); a high-gain directional antenna (Fontenna, see below) is available as an accessory.

[edit] La Fonera+

La Fonera+
Type Wireless Router
Operating system OpenWrt
Connectivity Network, 802.11b / 802.11g
Dimensions 93.5 x 25.5 x 110 (mm) (excluding antenna)
Predecessor La Fonera
Successor La Fonera 2.0

La Fonera+ has all of the La Fonera’s security and community features, but also incorporates new technology.

The router's four coloured LEDs show Foneros the status of all of the router’s activities: whether it’s online, whether it is connected, or whether it is sharing WiFi with other Foneros. The La Fonera+ also comes with an additional Ethernet port. Thus it can be used for connecting to a desktop computer, creating a virtual network through the private FON signal (MyPlace) and share all of the user's information across them.

Finally, the La Fonera+ comes with an additional internal antenna specially designed to work with the La Fontenna. It gives indoor coverage while the La Fontenna directs the WiFi signal towards other Foneros.

Since it includes a switch, the La Fonera+ allows connecting to half-duplex hubs provided by some ISPs. Like the La Fonera which preceded it, the La Fonera+ has issues connecting to many Intel-based cards and Cisco Aironet cards. Adjustment of power-saving settings on the computer may occasionally have an effect.[citation needed]

[edit] La Fontenna

La Fontenna

La Fontenna (FON3300A)
Type Directional Antenna
Connectivity RP-SMA
Dimensions 150 x 90 x (14 mm)
Weight 300g

The La Fontenna is a 6.5 dBi gain (7 dBi without cable) directional antenna panel that boosts the WiFi range of the La Fonera WiFi router by up to five times. It is weatherproof and includes a 3 metre cable, and an RP-SMA connector.

[edit] Alternative firmwares

The Fonera router uses a firmware based on the free OpenWRT, which is available under the GPL license. However, FON's terms require the FON members to run the device with the original software[8]. The hardware also attempts to prevent the installation of "unauthorized" firmwares by using digital signatures, even though there are ways to circumvent the protection.

Despite this, many alternative firmwares have emerged for the La Fonera. Some, such as DD-WRT, and OpenWrt, remove the public Service set identifier (SSID) fon_ap and are entirely new firmwares. Others, such as FrancoFON and FreeWLAN, leave the public service set identifier fon_ap intact as well as offer additional features such as client bridge mode, Aircrack-ng, Kismet and support for other programs such as AutoAP to be installed on the JFFS2 file system via a package management system.

[edit] FON Maps

FON Maps, based on Google maps, allow Foneros and others to easily locate FON Spots. FON Maps help make finding information about FON spots around the world easier, and offer detailed information and often personalised information about it. Maps offer Aliens and Foneros real time information about FON Spot activity, coverage and location around the world. Users can also download the FON Maps for their GPS system.

[edit] FON Labs

FON Labs is an initiative created by FON that currently offers beta applications and tools to simplify Internet use. FON Labs is located in Barcelona, Spain.

  • FON Get Simple converts long, impossible-to-remember URLs into short, easy-to-remember web-based bookmarks.
  • FON Uploader addresses one of the biggest drawbacks to Gmail. Gmail starts from scratch offering no way to import old emails to your new Gmail account. FON Uploader solves this problem by allowing users to import their old emails to their Gmail account.
  • FON Wit is a new tool that FON Labs is developing to allow users to chat and perform word searches at the same time. FON Wit is a Skype add on that will perform word searches when users pass the cursor over an unknown term that appears in the conversation.
  • FON SPOT for Mac and Linux is a software download that converts a Mac or Linux PC into a FON Spot allowing users to share WiFi with the FON Community wherever they take their PC.[14]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ "'Hotspots of the world unite' says Fon: Fon aims to become global community of people sharing each other's Wi-Fi hotspots", InfoWorld, December 1, 2005
  2. ^ FON - "Our Investor Partners"
  3. ^ A dream come true
  4. ^ Antony Savvas (2007-10-04). ""BT and FON aim for largest online Wi-Fi community"". Computerworld. 
  5. ^ a b Andy Reinhardt (2006-02-06). ""From Hot Spots to Fon Zones?"". BusinessWeek. Retrieved on 2008-04-17. 
  6. ^ Martin Varsavsky (2007-02-05). ""Why Does FON Give Away Routers In The Form Of The Fonero Promise?"". Retrieved on 2008-04-23. 
  7. ^ Martin Varsavsky (2007-02-21). ""Live near a Starbucks?"". Retrieved on 2008-04-23. 
  8. ^ a b Terms of Use of FON
  9. ^ ""BT and FON launch the world's largest Wi-Fi community"". BTFON. 2007-10-04. 
  10. ^ "FAQ for BT FON". Retrieved on 2009-02-22. 
  11. ^ Kirstin Ridley (2007-10-04). ""BT links up with FON for 'people's' Wi-Fi network"". Reuters. 
  12. ^ FON Cities
  13. ^ FON Friends
  14. ^ a b Martin Varsavsky. ""Fon Spot Software" - Mac and Linux". Retrieved on 2008-06-25. 
  15. ^ FON - "Make Money with your WiFi"
  16. ^ "FON is safe" - FON Security Page
  17. ^ Review of La Fonera in Wi-Fi Planet

[edit] External links

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