For a CEO of a start up who launches a new product, what just happened to me is very discouraging. I wrote a post about the new Fonera SIMPL that we will soon launch. I mentioned that it is called SIMPL because, as opposed to the Fonera 2.0N, it is not a buffer to the cloud. I was surprised at the amount of extremely negative comments that I got about the quality of the Fonera 2.0N. I am suprised because the reviews we got in blogs like Techcrunch, Wired, Boing Boing and many others are positive. Whereas, the comments that you can see here are extremely negative.

Now the danger of blogs is that the people who are motivated to comment are in general those who are experiencing problems. So if you listen too much to your blog’s comments, you can get very upset as a CEO. So to find out if the level of dissatisfaction expressed in the post about the SIMPL is realistic, I am running a poll among Fonera 2.0N buyers in both my Spanish and English blogs. And in the meantime, I would like to apologize to those who are experiencing problems and say that we are working very hard on a new firmware release. We also offer discounts to Fonera 2.0G buyers to upgrade to Fonera 2.0N, and I am open to any other ideas that the community has. In the meantime, we are getting large orders for the Fonera SIMPL which is just that, simple, an N router that shares some of your bandwidth so you can roam the world for free and make money when others connect to you.

I end by saying that I use the Fonera 2.0N every day of my life, that I am using one now to write this post. I connect my iPhone, Nexus One, and Blackberry to the Fonera 2.0N. The customer care group is, on purpose, right outside of my office, and I just can’t replicate the bugs that people report. In the past, I used to be the first one to find bugs.

The translation from Spanish is this:

The first choice is, while you would like to see improvements in the Fonera 2.0N it is a product you can use.

The second choice is, as the Fonera 2.0N stands now, with the current firmware, you cannot use it.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

No Comments

AustinTX on February 14, 2010  · 

“Martin responds to surge of general complaints from Fonero Community, with a single-question survey regarding a single product, sidestepping the point of most of those complaints.” Martin, this survey will prove nothing. How about a comprehensive survey of Fonero’s satisfaction with all Fon products, their satisfaction with Fon’s customer service response, and their satisfaction with Fon’s legendary track record for fixing things promptly? Ask about Fonero’s confidence in Fon’s firmware development team of one. Also, run separate surveys in each language so you don’t lump together results in regions where Foneros have very different feelings, as you well know. And, as always, you don’t need to defend the hard work of your skeleton staff. We are focused, not on their competence, but on your leadership today. Thank you kindly.

Dieter on February 15, 2010  · 

Mr Varsavsky,
I have a Fon router, and have read the “boards” quite often and look at all the “frustration” that your customers are put through.
Looking through your Blog, it seems that people get frustrated and vent anger at you for a few reasons, 1 is you are not very modest, infact you name drop an awful lot for what appears as no other reason to lift your “ego” or what you think is a good public image. 2/ You also always over sell and always way under deliver. As a person with your success and public position wouldn’t you think that it would be better to do the opposite? Deliver more than people think they are going to get?

For your survey, it’s a bit of a poor effort, if you really wanted to know the situation, firstly read the boards. Secondly post a survey that will give you a real view of your customers.

This survey is just looking for an answer that you want to hear, one that you can go back to the crowds and say “look see I am right” Your poll will tell you that the router works, yes it does, BUT it falls way short of your commitment on what it can do.

Post a poll that asks:
1/ Are you happy with Fon?
2/ Would you recommend Fon to your friends?
3/ Does the product that you purchased perform as expected?
4/ How would you rate Fon support out of 10 ( 10 being excellent)
5/ Do you feel that Fon values its customers
6/ For the other Router manufactures ( Belkin, Linksys, D-link etc..) how would you rate Fon? better, worse, midway?

Looking forward to seeing the new poll!

Benoit on February 15, 2010  · 

Agreed with Dieter

Kyros on February 16, 2010  · 

I 100% agree to Dieter as well!

But I think that especially ih this case Martin is not able to say boo to a goose… ;)
He fears about the results of such impartial questions.

Regards, Kyros

Roetzen on February 17, 2010  · 

Martin wrote: ” Fonera SIMPL which is just that, simple, an n router that shares some of your bandwidth so you can roam the world for free and make money when others connect to you.”

Which in itself is a good idea. Many do not need the bells and whistles of the 2.0N. Many indeed just want to share and roam for free. A good idea. If only it would work. My social router (that is what is was called at launch remember?) has been on-line for almost four years now. I invested in a 7dBi outdoor antenna. In those four years I have made a stunning €2.14 by selling FON day passes. In those four years I have never on my trips found a working FON hotspot when I wanted one. Sorry Martin, it just doesn’t work. :-(

As for the n capabalitty of the SIMPL: A full 801.1n implementation needs 3 antennas.

Richard on February 17, 2010  · 

I wrote about my experience here a few weeks ago.
http://www.wilkinson.fr/richard/?p=854

To me this is a case of someone forgetting to concentrate on the core business. This was supposed to be a flagship product and all it has done is hurt the company’s best customers.

Norman on February 17, 2010  · 

I also agreee with Dieter. Only 2 possible answers is very blac and white. I had to downgrade my fonera from rc 2.something to 2.3 or 2.6 something, cause the Fonspot didnt work.

Ok, it was a RC, but now i’m back on a firmware without even the very buggy version of the upnp media server, torrenz down but no upload and i lose my internet connection about once every hour, which can result in jours to day of lost time in mmorps like eve online (it also sucks with non-nerdish hobbies so that is no argument ;P)

the media server (don’t know if the non-working upnp server or even an iTunes server that wasnt even in a RC yet) was promised when the fonera 2.0n came out and it doesnt even work now. So: wlan sucks, media server misses despite promises, torrent works half-way, FPN communication was the worst i ever saw from a company during the last months. A lot of broken promises and no words for 3 months.

Norman on February 17, 2010  · 

PS: another thing was the iphone-like “app” system of the fonera, but there are no good apps but the torrent and upnp server. Whoever came up with the usb-to audio-out for internet-radio-without-having-to-turn-on-your-pc ….. this is total nerd stuff (even for me) and noone needs it. But i must say the torrent and upnp ideas are great (even if theory only atm).

Krasti on February 17, 2010  · 

I voted that u can’t use the Router with the current firmware. But with the Beta of Young Rudolph its ok. Just fix the new Firmware and i will be satisfied. Today was a good day, because I checked the svn and “Wow”, there are commits. The no information policy made me crazy. Not hearing anything at all for about 2 month makes me sick.
Keep on with fon, but also try to communicate more. Answering comments is one thing, but giving a sign of life is more important. There is so much vaporware out there, please let the firmware not join Duke Nuke forever… :D

Norman on February 18, 2010  · 

Martin, i read the Fonera SIMPL blogpost again, and i really try to see the whole picture. There are even 1 or 2 users that call the fonera 2.0n “rock solid”. And you say that millions are happy with it and have no problems. From my own experience, it’s hard to believe. Why should we 50 “outraged” people have connection loss twice per hour, and others don’t with with the same firmware/hardware (the “rock solid” comment was even made about a RC firmware which your own developers said we shouldn’t use because it is unstable).

My own explenation is that those people have to have the same problems but don’t realize it. If they are normal users like my mom, that check emails and surf a bit, then leave the pc for 3 hours, maybe they don’t see wifi dropping those 2 times per hour. But it is real, this is no “hatemail”, it is a real problem.

Please try to understand why people are outraged. For what the Fonera 2.0n SHOULD be able to do, those 80 Euros that people pay are a very good price (next system that has the app-structure and nice-looking torrent client would be a HD enclosure for 500 Euros, Drobo).

But for what the fonera DOES, it is VERY expensive.

stable firmware:
no promised upnp.
Losing connections at least twice per hour. (never had to reboot like some say, the signal returns after 5-20 seconds and my macbook re-connects. but it sucks if you’re doing something like live-recording skype etc, one of my recordings of an important 2 hour skype session is crippled at important parts because of the router).
No torrent upload, only download (kills ratio and is unfair for others)

rudolph RC:
FON spot not working.
upnp included, but stopped working after 1 week and never came back.
connection now stable (hooray, at least my router ROUTES!)
Torrent upload (hooray)
still no “cool” apps but a lot of nerdstuff (Thor etc, might be nice, but the router is sold to normal consumers too, not only hackers. could you inform us about any new apps that are on the to do list?)

Please see, that for a router that has all those problems, 80 euros is like 10 times the money you should pay.
And for a worldwide company to need 6 months to get a product working …. it’s not imaginable.

Imagine Apple selling you an iPod and it only plays 30 seconds of all of your songs, and they release a patch after 6 months! And they promised it plays video, but it doesn’t. What would your feelings be? Ask yourself.

I hope that you will deliver a working product and that i will not grief all those moments that i told people about FON when working at a computerstore as a student and getting you at least a dozens of new costumers.

tpp on February 18, 2010  · 

Well Martin,
with all due respect to your concern about us Foneros, the fonera 2.0 n has been a great product with a great philosphy to begin with. It is unique and after having searched the whole market I didn’t find any product with similar specs.
unfortunately you haven’t been concerened enough with your product and released one which has a great lack of performance and functionality. Now you attempted to come up with new firmware releases, but not even a single one of them was getting the product to where it was supposed to be.
As a CEO you should also be well aware, that the good reviews weren’t based on the extreme conditions other users strain your device with… you should be cautious, the bad performance of a product will destroy any sympathy for future products, but I don’t think I even have to mention that….

A word in advice, get your guys moving and launch that firmware we are all waiting for. ASAP.

Nick on February 18, 2010  · 

Martin, I’m sorry but I really don’t understand the focus of the Fonera 2.0n. The purpose of any headless device (and especially routers) is to do a single job very well and so stability is key; adding additional complexity adds the risk of additional instability.

So the question is simple, are you trying to build a network to serve the Internet to devices via WiFi or make cool toys?

If its the former then why are you not working on creating stable devices with excellent WiFi range? If its the latter then why are you not working on devices other than routers?

I can understand the upset of the other Fon members as you don’t seem to be getting a clear corporate message across. As the CEO it is your duty to those you employ to ensure you have a viable business model and communication with your customers is a key part of that; customer critisism is an indication that you are not doing that.

muclomo on February 18, 2010  · 

I am very impressed that an open discussion is possible here – not to many CEOs would accept that. But I am absolutely dissapointed concerning the development of fon in the last years. As already mentioned by other posters – we do not expect to make money with the fonera, we just want to share bandwith and roam. That is the concept – but it does not work. I do not expect the next gadget from fon – I expected a community that works !

Kyros on February 18, 2010  · 

muclomo wrote:
> […] I expected a community that works !

That’s what we all did back in 2006 when we started with FON. But unfortunaltey all our efforts to build a communitiy in which Foneros of a reagion can help each others and inprove continousely their local FON network didn’t succeed because of FON’s missing community support.

Now the french fonero fellows from francofon launched a good functional service which can be used by Foneros to evaluate and enhance a lokal FON network. This is what FON should had invented at least 3 years ago. We had a lot of creative heads in the community proposing good ideas – but all we earned was ignorance from FON side.
Now I fear that francofon’s invention comes too late – my tests here in Vienna/Austria showed that the FON network was already more than 2 years ago a phantom which couldn’t be accessed in the real world (only 1 of 10 FON-spots connectable, only 1 of 3 active shown FON-spots connectable). Test made by other foneros showed the similar desperate situation.

So this is for new Foneros to understand why we old Foneros don’t believe in the promises made here before we have a real result in our hands to test.

tpp on February 19, 2010  · 

guys i am glad that this conversation is coming together, maybe now they will wake up and finally do something about this…

André on February 19, 2010  · 

I see comments with too much negativity. fonera 2n is a
great product and i’m glad that i’ve adquired one.
evidently it can get better. it’s true that the new firmware is
taking too much time to see the light. but even with this
problem i can say that this router is the best one i bought
since ever.

Johannes on February 20, 2010  · 

i agree fully with Norman. At the moment i am using the RC firmware because i need a stable router more then i need a working fon-spot.
My issue is based on the fact that all the promised functionality isn’t working (well) so basicly i bought just an expensive basic router. Very expensive… i could have easily bought 3 normal ones for the same money, probably with better signal strength too.
I don’t understand the fuzz about the SMPL isn’t it doing exactly the same as the Fonera+ just a newly packaged? The effort was better spent in delivering a stable firmware for the 2.0n

Norman on February 23, 2010  · 

The developers posted some new info:
http://blog.fonosfera.org/so-what-is-the-status-now/

Norman on February 25, 2010  · 

15 disconnects already in the last 3 hours……

Martin Varsavsky on February 25, 2010  · 

Norman I am connected for days to the Fonera 2.0n with a MacBook Pro without any problems. Can you detail the equipment you are using? Have you reported the exact nature of your problem to customer care? We are monitoring all incidences in customer care and it seems that most who have a problem come to this blog and not cc. Customer Care is the place to go.

Magnus Akselvoll on February 25, 2010  · 

So far, Mr. Varsavsky, more than 400 people (65% of the vote) have said they cannot use your top of the line product until you fix the firmware. And you have known about these problems for several months.

It is time to hire more people for the firmware team and / or find ways to include the open source community. The reason Firefox is a success is not because they are open source or because their product is so much more better than the competition; it is because they have built a community. Your’s is falling apart.

Martin Varsavsky on February 25, 2010  · 

Magnus we are working on a new firmware. It so happens that there are very, very few people in the world who know how to program the Fonera. Indeed if you know people we could add to our great team let us know.

Having said this I am connected to a Fonera every day of my life with Mac, Windows, Ubuntu, Jolicloud, Nexus One, Blackberry, iPhone and have never, not once experience the problems that other people have. I hope it’s not because they adopted the not official release of Rudolph that had unsolved issues and they are using our last stable release.

benoit on February 25, 2010  · 

Martin,

If people are using only blogs to report problems. Then you can think that your
Customer care.support process and link/phone is not shown accuratly on your website.
Also your teams are only using parallel blogs to communicate and not fon.com website.
What should expect the people to do other than react the same way you act.
Use fon.com to communicate your product strategy.
Good news is that you are 1 out of the 35@ercent that is able to use your product.

Give a timelime for next firmware release.
Regards

Norman on February 25, 2010  · 

Martin, i have a Macbook Pro, too. With the RC Rudolph that we should not use anymore, WLAN worked fine, not one problem in 2 months. Now that i downgraded to 2.6.6.0 and 2.3.0.0, with both, i have WLAN dropping about 2-5 times per hour, i guess it’s the router rebooting, or only wlan not working, dunno im no mechanic. It also happens on my iMac running windows. Sometimes i lose WLAN connection completely, sometimes it is still there and i can surf but get kicked out of my games on both machines at the same time…very strange…but it is the firmware, it worked with rudolph and with my old router. Since many people have the same problem, i think this is nothing “special” but a firmware bug. Even your new Twitter-Suport channel says the WLAN drivers are flawed…wonder why yours work.

Magnus Akselvoll on February 26, 2010  · 

I don’t have any developers for you, Martin (good C developers are hard to find these days), but really think you need a bigger team, inhouse or distributed.

I am happy that the Foneras work for you, and let’s face it, probably for most users, but that has never been the case for me.

I have summed up my experiences on my blog, as this was too long to post here.

I would be delighted if you read it.

Ben on February 27, 2010  · 

So far, Mr. Varsavsky, more than 400 people (65% of the vote) have said they cannot use your top of the line product until you fix the firmware.

Norman I am connected for days to the Fonera 2.0n with a MacBook Pro without any problems. Can you detail the equipment you are using? Have you reported the exact nature of your problem to customer care? We are monitoring all incidences in customer care and it seems that most who have a problem come to this blog and not cc. Customer Care is the place to go.

Well, here my experience with FON cc from 2 years ago:

I got problems with my just-bought Fonera+ and contacted cc, giving an exact and concise description of the problems (Martin, I can send it to you – my original query was in English). The reply I got betrayed the cc guy didn’t even try to read my mail. Here is an excerpt from my reply (translated from German)

Ben writes:
> through the FON Router GUI interface
Alex replies:
> Do you get Management Console?
Ben writes:
> Hard-/Software: … MacBook/OS X 10.5 (Intel)
Alex replies:
> Connect your computer to ‘MyPlace’
> in case you don’t get any further, describe your system and the point where you got stuck

Well, I indeed got then some advices, which didn’t help. After a lot of experimentation, I could solve the problem. But I guess, a non-technical person would just at some point give up, write off the expenses and buy a working router.

In the meanwhile you have reduced the stuff by two thirds to my knowledge. I don’t think you could simultaneously improve you cc.

This blog is quite interesting to read. And I liked very much the original FON idea (which just happened to fail, at least in Germany: I live near a major international airport and traid fair, continuously provide the best possible signal outside of my house using La Fontenna – and got TWO connections by ONE person in two years).

But I don’t think I’d ever buy a FON product.

Khairuddin on March 3, 2010  · 

Mr. Varsavsky,

I am a happy user of FON and have been using it since it was introduce here in Japan.The only problem I have is in using http://maps.fon.com/
It takes lots of time too just load the page.
Some of the function are not working(eg.search) and the page is ugly.
It’s the worst map application I’ve ever used.FON is a great product but it could be much better if your team could improve the user experience on the maps page.

Thanks

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