After launching FON in Japan with tremendous press coverage, together with Joichi Ito, and preparing the Korean launch with the very able Korean entrepreneur and founder of Inet an ISP, Jin Ho Hur, I arrived in Beijing last night and read this story.

Mmmm, my dear BlackBerry is now the RedBerry?

As I read it I wonder if by presenting FON in China to key local players, as I have been doing in Korea and Japan our orange wifi revolution, we won´t be turrned into a local red version instead. I hesitate, but decide to go ahead and present FON in China. FON always has a risk of being copied, but with the right partners here we hope the FON that makes it is the original FON. The promise of FON, share excess bandwidth at home and enjoy free WiFi anywhere in the world, would be broken if we are copied by a local player. A local Chinese company could say share WiFi in Beijing and get WiFi anywhere else in Beijing or even in China, but not anywhere in the world. And we are now in 144 countries and have over 30,000 registered foneros (people who using our software turn their WiFi routers into hotspots). In any case, FON plans to make generous deals with local partners to keep most of the value in China and make it worthwhile to work with us.

A last comment. Last night when I landed, for the equivalent of 30 euros, I bought a SIM card with enough charge to make many local calls. I hate to be ripped off by Vodafone, who claims that its Passport rate is now a “small charge”, but you pay an euro per call extra sent or received. Now what surprised me of this process is how fast it was and how anonymous it was. I gave money, they gave me a SIM card, they have no clue of who I am. In Japan I tried to do the same thing and they would not sell me the card because I was not Japanese, nor a registered alien.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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David Oliver on April 14, 2006  · 

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