I had the idea of FON in late 2005 in Paris, France. I was desperately looking for WiFi. While I found a lot of WiFi signals, I could not access a single one of them. They were all locked. It was then that the key concept of Fon dawned on me “share a little extra WiFi at home and roam the world for free connecting to other people´s routers”. For a while the Fon idea seemed to be utopic. Now thanks to Fon itself and now to progressive carriers such as Free of France it´s becoming a global reality.

This week, the French ISP Free launched a community WiFi service similar to ours at FON. Owners of a Freebox v5 who share with FreeWiFi will be able to surf off the WiFi router of other Free customers. As with FON, Free customers must share to get access to the FreeWiFi signal, which is a second SSID broadcasted by their Freebox.

captive-portal-french-isp

Still there is a big difference between the new community launched by French ISP Free and Fon and that is that it is a closed community available only to Free customers and only in France as Free only operates in France. Moreover since this community has no aliens neither Free nor its customers can make money offering their WiFi to non donors as is the case with Fon.

FON grows either by selling its own Fonera and by partnering with Telcos around the world such as British Telecom, SFR Neuf (Free´s competitor) and others. But even though Free is so far not a member of the Fon community itself and some people have asked me if we did not feel threatened by Free acting alone we congratulate Free for the move as it validates Fon´s concept. While it may not be apparent to journalist who cover the Internet and Telecoms sharing a la Fon is a way that operators have to reduce churn, provide more with no additional cost and differentiate themselves from carriers that only offer you internet at home when you pay at home.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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