Yesterday we signed our third large contract with an ISP. So far we have only disclosed one Glocalnet, the second largest ISP in Sweden. The other two we will be able to disclose when we are ready to launch in around 90 days. It´s remarkable how similar all our meetings with the ISPs are. First they mistrust us. They think Fon is about sharing connections, something they clearly dislike as it reduces their potential customer base. Indeed in many cases it is difficult to get the first meetings and if it weren´t for some of our board members and partners we would probably not even get a chance. But when we have our foot in the door and we explain exactly how Fon increases ARPU and reduces churn, ISPs do a 180 on us. The key here is our rules. First on prices. Fon will charge aliens (paying customers who pay because they have not donated wifi) $2 in the States and 2 euros in Europe. This rate is a bargain for 24 hours. With this rate we become the “easy jet” of wifi. But interestingly this rate is not low enough to get a neighbor to want to connect through another neighbor. In France for example you get good monthly broadband connections for 22 euros per month. So at 2 euros per day it just does not pay to be an alien. People in this case prefer to become foneros, sign up at home, pay their local ISPs and join Fon for free and get free global roaming. The Fon rate is good for roaming, not for home use and in this way we protect the ISPs. Still our offer to ISPs who commit to make all their new connections fon ready (customer chooses activation or not of course) is that we give ISPs half of that money in case of a Linus fonero and half of what we get after paying half to a Bill fonero (or 50c) in case of a Bill fonero. Bottom line is that ISPs realize that they are seating on a a lot of unexpected revenues. That with fon they become part builders of a global wireless network that increases the ARPU per connection and increases customer loyalty as after Fon they pay at home and get bandwidth anywhere in the world. And all this comes at no cost to the ISP and we let them use our brand in their promotions. This is how we are converting ISPs and getting new foneros at the same time. Foneros also like to know that they only share with those who share with them. By the way our year end target was 25,000 registered foneros but today we will hit 20,000. Also United States went from being one of the last countries last month to being first in number of registered foneros. We started in Spain but now USA leads which is normal just because of the incredible amount of broabdband connections there are in this country.
If you had reserved your router at Fon now is your time to reenter our web site and buy it. We got the routers and we are delivering them both in Europe and in the States.
I think it´s particularily tragic that in the island of Cuba both Fidel Castro and George W Bush two heads of state normally at odds would agree on one thing: that torture and abuse is a fair way to deal with those who seek to destroy their regimes.
I was interviewed by Tim Pritlove from Chaos Radio. Since I launched FON, I have been giving many interviews. And in this time, Tim conducted the interview so well, that I felt thankful. His questions permitted create the perfect atmosphere for me to explain FON into great and precise detail.
He first asked “What’s FON”. We then chatted about linus, Linksys firmware, Brainslayer, Ejovi our USA Fonero Leader, Wimax, WiFi gadgets, ISPs, the German market, Google and Skype, WiFi city projects… I think both of us contributed to make this podcast valuable for people to really understand and get to know FON.
If you already know Chaos Radio, you may also be familiar with Chaos Computer Club (CCC). It’s a global community with about 1.500 members from eleven German cities and many other countries such as Austria, Switzerland and Netherlands.
They fight against any form of censorship, promote freedom of information and communication. As stated on their website, CCC considers itself a communication platform for Hackers and for those who want to become Hackers. Their philosophy is to study the social and individual impact of Technologies. But overall, the Hackers Ethics posted on their site is fascinating to read. Knowing Tim and thinking about other Chaos team members, I look at their ethics as an Honour Code.
Hacker Ethics promotes making public data available while protecting private data, as well as decentralizing information. But the most “romantic” ethic in the Hacker Ethics is that one can create art and beauty on a computer, thus changing one’s life for better.
Last Tuesday, we did three cities in one day: Munich, Dresden and Berlin. In Munich, we had meetings with Hubert Burda and his team. The professionalism of Burda is unbelievable. We arrived with Christiane where we met a group of 12 editors of magazines and websites. Burda is a type of Prisa but without Sogecable. Hubert Burda himself is a type of Jesús Polana, they’re about the same age, about the same height and both are very successful and very intuitive. One major difference though is that Burda has bet on the internet while Polanco has bet on digital TV. There are great possibilities between Burda and FON but I cannot yet talk about what we’re planning together. When I see the success we have outside of Spain, I wonder why is it that in Spain we don’t meet with Prisa, for example. Nor do we meet with Telefónica. In Germany, we’ve already met with T-Online and they are interested in FON. Many ISPs are realising that converting their clients into hotspots and charging more by doing so is a way to increase both revenue per customer and customer retention.
Then came my meeting with Nicholas Negroponte at the airport in Munich. He was coming in from Switzerland to meet with me and we then flew to Dresden on my plane. I was heading there to meet Brainslayer and Negroponte wanted to present me his $100 laptop because the argentine government is considering buying 1,000,000 of these computers and Educ.ar is in the descision-making process. I really enjoyed listening to Negroponte. He belongs to that small world of big people, big in every sense of the term. He’s a really nice guy, intelligent, concerned and fascinating. Iurgi of FON was with us on the plane, Christiane too and all three of us listened to his presentation very attentively and we then talked a lot about the characteristics of the laptop and the makers of its components. $100 is risky, but for $150 it might be worth it.
Upon arriving in Dresden, we met up with Brainslayer. What a team! Christiane, Brainslayer, Negroponte, Iurgi and myself. Brainslayer showed us around his company and showed us his software. As you know, at FON we have two versions of our open-source software: our openwrt version and our dd-wrt (Brainslayer) version. Negroponte was amazed with all the functionalities of the dd-wrt. It’s truly amazing the things that you can do with a router using this software. You can choose how much bandwidth you want to share, you can block someone from abusing your connection with excessive traffic (eg. using bit torrent for example) etc… You basically can configure it to do ANYTHING you want.
At the end of our meeting, Negroponte left for London and we went to Berlin where we had dinner with a group of foneros. We already have 500 registered foneros in Germany. For me, the country remains the big mystery in Europe. I find it amazing the quality of life here considering the last 10 years have been a real economic disaster for Germany. Apartments and restaurants are cheaper in Berlin than in Madrid. It’s much cheaper because of the economic crisis. There a loads of restaurants but very few clients. And add to that the very high unemployment rate. It’s this kind of phenomena that can be explained in a thousand ways, but none of them matches completely.
I will be in San Francisco, NYC, and Boston next week.
I have published job offers for programmers in my Spanish site.
Right now FON is only router based. We chose routers as people tend to leave routers always on. So we are happy with our solution. But occasionally I can see how foneros may want to share wifi through their laptops. So we would like to launch another FON modality and that is those of laptops who become FON hotspots. As you may know I am not a programmer. If anything I am a dreamer at FON, probably the Chief Corporate Dreamer. So this is what I am dreaming from the little I know about laptops. This is an invitation for developers out there to send us proposed solutions with their budgets so these ideas can become a reality.
There are three main kinds of laptops, Windows, Mac and Linux.
Mac laptops are great for FON as they already have a built in functionality that turns them into hotspots when they receive internet over lan or 3G. What we need here is a download that turns them into FON hotspots.
Linux laptops are great for FON cause our two software developments openwrt and ddwrt are linux based. But the problem is that not all of them become hotspots. I need more information on this, on how Linux based laptops could become FON hotspots.
Windows based laptops are even more challenging as our software is in Linux. But maybe somebody out there can think of a solution.
And lastly none of this laptops can become hotspots when they use their radio to get wifi signal, so I am interested in FON selling a USB wifi pen drive that turns this laptops into hotspots through the pen drive, so they get wifi normally but they emit wifi through the pen drive.
If you have any ideas along these lines please write to me.
Our 2006 targets were to have 25,000 foneros by the end of 2006. But we went from 3000 to 17,500 in 15 days and this is without yet activating ISPs to be Fon ready, without having routers makers sell their routers fon ready and without executing our strategy to appear in other major web sites. At this point our 20 employees are seriously overworked. It´s been a crazy two weeks. We are hiring, looking at the best way to grow from 20 to around 40 people. We need people in biz dev country by country as well as software and systems people. I also want to apologize for those who have had trouble signing up or buying our routers. I know there were moments in which our servers were down. But anyone who joins FON these days should know that this is a start up and that we are all doing what we can to deliver routers and simplifying the overall process of becoming a fonero. It is clear that we underestimated the interest that FON would generate. But we are getting there. Now the great news is that while our first firmware version had created a lot of complains our new firmwares both dd-wrt and openwrt as modified for FON seem to be very robust and the first installed routers are operating well.
As FON prepares to service different countries we are interested in having foreign nationals working for us in Spain doing business development from Madrid. FON develops software in Germany and Spain but has its systems in Spain. We are looking for candidates from Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, England, China and USA who may be living in Spain now and may want to manage the interaction between FON and their native countries from Madrid. Please send your CVs to the address in this blog. It is not necessary to speak Spanish.