Wouldn’t it be wonderful that you could have WiFi internet access in the world for free? Luckily Martin Varsavsky who founded Fon thought the same thing. The way it works is share a bit of your internet bandwidth and get it in return from other people that share their internet the same way.
Well this did sound really great (still does) but the sad thing is that Fon never took of on it’s own, it was the classic “the chicken or the egg” dilemma. For the network to have a huge coverage and usability you would need to have a huge user base with access points and to have the incentive for people to sign up you would need to have a great coverage. Of course there where early adopters, but some of theme where not that pleased with how thing progressed and left again.
If someone doesn’t share there internet trough a Fon router, there is the option to buy a Fon pass. The most common Fon Passes are for 25 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day and 5 days. Fon does have the option to share in the profits if someone buys such a pass via your device, but if you don’t live in a high traffic area the earnings wouldn’t be much or nothing at all. Thus also not being a good incentive in my opinion to get more people sharing there internet connection via such a router.
Last but not least there is the anxiety for some people to open up there home internet connection to total strangers. But how the Fonera router functions, the total strangers don’t get access to the local network and only to the internet and they do get logged that they have used the Fonera hotstpot with a time and date. I do hope they log visited websites as well but can’t say that for certain at this point in time.
Because not enough people where joining Fon, they had to come up with some other strategy and what they started partnering up with telco providers to increase the coverage of there Fon network and potentially attract more subscribers in the process as well. The partnerships with BT_group (formerly know as British Telecom) Belgacom and SFR (Société française de radiotéléphone) are really successful in my opinion, a testament to this is just simply the massively orange coloured countries (France Belgium and the United Kingdom) on the Fon coverage map they have on-line. In every country they have a partnership with a telco provider you still can buy a Fonera router from Fon and join the party and you don’t have to sign-up with the partnered telco, the only exception to this is the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands the partnership with KPN partnership will be huge as well and it is estimated to have best coverage yet on a per country bases. The only sad thing is that the Fonera routers aren’t for sale any more in the Netherlands and the partnership includes that it will be exclusively for KPN ISP members only. Not even daughter companies are going to offer Fon to there customers. This undermines what was Fon all about in my opinion, free wifi by the masses for the masses.
For people living in the Netherlands a solution would be to simply buy a fonera router trough ebay, preferably a new one because that way you are sure it is not currently linked against an existing Fon account and also still has the original firmware. The reason for the alternate firmware on second hand Fonera routers, is that it is a relatively cheap device and is great for usage in DIY electronics projects. After procuring such a router, just simply power it up and connect to the unsecured SSID: fon_free_internet . At this point you will be greeted by the Fon catch page, on this page you can either create or register a new Fon account. While registering the Fon account from Netherlands, make sure that you not choose the Dutch version of the website but the English one. Via this route it is still possible to register a Fon router from within the Netherlands.
Although I think Fon does still offer a great service, I do find it somewhat limiting that if you have one Fon router you can only connect to one other Fon router while on the road and only upto 3 devices (to the same fon access point). Because I do live in a household with more then one person, I bought 3 fon routers to just hook them up side by side to have 3 separate accounts. This way all family members can use there devices at the same time at different fon access points. So in total I could connect up to 9 devices (still 3 per hotspot though).
An other feature I’m currently missing is that they did have in the past, is the ability to download a POI list with all the active fonera routers. That list then could be loaded into most GPS applications/devices, of course Fon has Android and Iphone apps to locate Fonera hotspots. But the issue with those apps that they need to be on-line to retrieve the nearest access points. And mobile internet access comes for a premium when you are abroad and makes it thereby somewhat useless. If they come up with a app that also works offline with a cached list, I would be very happy 🙂 .
All in all, I’m quite happy with the service Fon delivers. But since I’m from the Netherlands, I’m not that thrilled with the KPN exclusive deal they did. But at least I can still use my Fon accounts when the KPN finally roll out there Fon network.