As you know, FON is a global community of people who share WiFi connections. We call these people “Foneros”, as a tribute to our heritage as a Spanish company. In order to become a Fonero, you go to FON, to download software that you install in your router, you place your antenna by a window and you share bandwidth with other Foneros from anywhere in the world. You can also buy the FON Ready router from our web site, plug and play. FON creates a free WiFi roaming environment for those who contribute WiFi signals, namely those who have already signed up with a local ISP and downloaded our software into their WiFi routers.
The success of FON, like the success of all online communities — such as eBay, Skype, ICQ, IM — depends on many people joining. At the very beginning, when there are no obvious advantages to joining FON, it is not so easy to get Foneros, even though the service is free. But as Foneros continue to join, and there are more and more Fonero hotspots, the dream of a unified global broadband wireless signal becomes a reality. The FON movement, as we call it, can achieve what 3G or EVDO has not — a truly broadband wireless Internet everywhere. 3G/EVDO are great for coverage, but their throughput is pitiful compared to WiFi and they are way too expensive.
FON was launched just 90 days ago and we already have over 3,000 registered Foneros. While that number may seem small, 3,000 registered Foneros puts us at 10% of our 2006 objective in only 3 months: to become the largest hotspot network in the world by the end of the year. Currently, the largest global hotspot networks have around 30,000 hotspots. But after having built the second largest Spanish Internet company, Ya.com and the second largest publicly traded telecom company in Spain, Jazztel both with significant backers, I realized that at FON was going to need very special alliances to succeed on its objective of having 1 million hotspots around the world in 4 years. I knew that our method of downloading firmware was a much faster way of building a unified global WiFi signal than the traditional method used by local hotspots companies. Their way — buying WiFi boxes and deploying them hotspot by hotspot — is costly and inefficient. Ours is simple: download and install. Ours is a people’s network. But for FON to succeed we need tremendous magnifying power for our message.
So I sought the ultimate alliances in the industry, and aimed high, very high. And today I have a great announcement to make: FON can now count Google , Skype, Sequoia Capital, and Index Ventures as investors and backers. They’ve joined us to help advance the FON movement, leading a group that has put 18 million Euros into FON and also committed to give us a strategic boost that should help us make this great idea into a great platform for everyone who wants a faster, cheaper and more secure wireless Internet. We’ll invest this money in R&D so we can make it quicker and easier to become a FONERO and so that we can expand the number of things you can do with your FON service. Our goal, after all, isn’t just to share bandwidth. It’s to use the power of people to people networks to create a global wireless network. What makes each of these firms great backers for us is that deep in their DNA is the idea of brand-new business models, tons of innovation and a commitment to making the digital world easier and cheaper. We feel the same way. So while we’re excited about (and responsible for!) their investment, we’re even more pleased to have their support. Also I am pleased to announced today that we have obtained the support of two significant ISPs for FON. In America Speakeasy has said that they welcome FON and in Europe, Glocalnet and FON have signed an agreement so Glocalnet sells its services FON ready and the Swedish foneros will soon be able move around Stockholm and other cities with their WiFi enabled gadgets. FON shares revenues with ISPs making it attractive for them to join the FON movement.