Have you ever seen those people who get on TV and wave hi to their mother “who is probably watching”? Well today is one of those days for me.  Except that it’s not my mother but my mother-in-law, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law. And they are not exactly watching TV, but connecting to WiFi.  In Germany I mean.  Because yes, we finally made a phenomenal alliance in Germany, similar to the ones we made in the UK with BT, or in Belgium with Belgacom, or in France with SFR, or the Netherlands with KPN. Yes, we are launching Telekom Fon! So soon my German family, and everyone in Germany for that matter, will be able to connect to Telekom Fon, just as people in the UK, for example, can connect to BT WiFi with Fon. And today I’m thrilled to announce this exceptional relationship with Telekom to the world.

Fon has partnered with the incredible Deutsche Telekom to blanket Germany with WiFi. Telekom has 12 million broadband subscribers in Germany alone that will join Fon’s WiFi network, already the largest in the world– it’s the perfect ally to bring Fon into a country I care deeply about and have much respect for. The Telekom Fon alliance will build on the 12,000 Telekom hotspots already in place and allow Telekom Fon subscribers, and everyone in the Fon network, to connect to these and more than 7.8 million hotspots around the world for free. This is a huge achievement for us at Fon and I couldn’t be happier to make the good news official.

To my German friends and family: get ready to roam…

The majority of start ups are not competing against other start ups.  They are competing against the indifference of consumers, many of which couldn’t care less about their innovation. And this is true even when you, the founder, thinks that what you have come up is something totally revolutionary that will greatly help people.  Look at our case at Fon.  Fon is a huge success in countries like the UK, Belgium, Japan and others and with 7.5 million hotspots we are now the largest WiFi network in the world.  Now what is the paradox of our technology that turns everyone’s WiFi into public WiFi?  Fon happens to be an innovation that almost everyone wants if given to them but very few will do anything to get it. So at the beginning Fon was a consumer company who gave away or sold WiFi routers that shared WiFI and we almost failed as a consumer company.  When we asked consumers to share a little WiFi at home and roam the world for free connecting to other Foneros or WiFI sharing members we only got 300K people around the world to do this.  But when we pivoted and we started working together with telecom companies like BT, Belgacom, SFR, Zon and others, these companies made Fon a standard feature of their DSL/Cable WiFi services (meaning that people became Foneros by default) and if they did not want to be they could opt, out almost nobody opted out!  And the telcos started working with us because they saw that we lowered their capex, their churn, their customer acquisition costs and increased their ARPU. So the partnerships keep growing around the world. Consumers benefit, we benefit, the telcos benefit.

So the paradox of WiFi everywhere is that if people are asked to do something to have a big benefit, to roam the world for free, they don’t.  But if it’s given to them without asking and then asked the opposite, if they don’t want to be part of a WiFi everywhere community that gives them free global roaming, almost everyone wants to stay in.  This “opt in vs opt out” paradox (a phenomenon proven highly relevant in the market for organ donations) symbolizes the struggle of start ups, even those who have truly innovative and beneficial products such as Fon.

As innovative as people think they are, there is only a small group of us geeks who enjoy testing and using whatever is new.  For massive success indifference is the biggest enemy of start ups, and your role as CEO is to fight this indifference, to evangelize, to reach people in the best possible ways so they finally find themselves using your innovation and liking it.  Your most important role is to fight indifference through whatever channel works best to promote your innovation.

This article was also published in LinkedIn. You can follow Martin by clicking below

Fon is off to a good start in 2012. Just after announcing 5 million hotspots, I am now happy to share that we have announced our first partnership this year. It is with Netia, one of Poland’s largest telcos. Together, we will create Poland’s largest WiFi community. Netia is Poland’s most innovative telco, and we couldn’t have chosen a better partner to help us spread the Fon vision in the country.

The goal is to have over 100,000 hotspots all around Poland available by spring. As always, the new hotspots together with all of Fon’s 5 million hotspots will be open to the Fon network and of course to Netia customers. It’s always good to see the Fon network open up to so many people at the same time. Poland is a big country, with almost 25 million internet users, and there is lots of potential there.

More and more, 2012 is looking like a great year for Fon. For sure, this is the first of many more partnerships to come this year.

Today, I am happy to announce that the company I started just over six years ago, Fon, has just passed the important milestone of five million hotspots.

Why is this important? Because while many have tried to build a large and global WiFi network, Fon has been the only company in the world to actually achieve this. No other network even comes close to us. Fon is everywhere, even in residential locations, where no other WiFi hotspots can be found.  Brussels, Lisbon, London and Tokyo are completely covered with Fon WiFi.

We are growing so fast, that in 2011 alone we added two million new hotspots. This year, I predict that Fon will grow its number of hotspots by at least 50 percent, so there is lots of work ahead to make sure this happens.

I am proud of Fon and its large, global WiFi network. I started this company with a goal to create a truly global WiFi community, where everyone sharing a little bit of their connection gets free WiFi anywhere in the world in return.

Every day, I feel that we’re getting closer to this goal. The WiFi revolution continues.

Published in Techcrunch 

Belgacom (powered by Fon) has created an awesome campaign to advertise its fonspots. A dog called Fifi whose innate talent is to smell wifi hotspots.  In the middle of 2011, we announced the agreement between Fon and Belgacom and two months ago we reached 100.000 hotspots. Nowadays, we have 300.000,.

Here you can see the video. The story would be as follows: Jean has a dog called Fifi that barks when she finds a wifi hotspot, because of Fon and its agreement with Belgacom, this virtue has turned out to be his worst nightmare as she never stops barking.

In addition, Belgacom also created a game which consists of finding Fifi in one of the 300.000 hotspots Fon has in Belgium through Google Streetview.
In June this year, I announced our partnership with Belgacom, the largest telco in Belgium. Now, I am happy to announce that only 5 months later, the Belgacom network is up-and-running, with 100,000 hotspots projected before the end of the year. But it doesn’t stop there – before the end of next year, the Belgacom Fon network will have half a million hotspots, solidifying it as Belgium’s largest WiFi network.While this year has been full of news, including our first partnership in Latin America with Oi from Brazil, we’re still not done.

As demand for WiFi continues to grow, we are continuing to grow our network with the help of our community and partners, in fact, we’re having conversations with telcos all around the world.

Other than giving customers the benefit of being part of the world’s largest WiFi community, there are important benefits for telcos when they partner with Fon. The main one is offloading significant mobile traffic through WiFi. This is becoming increasingly important as the number of internet enabled devices is driving an important (and growing) portion of internet traffic. This is why at Fon we are proud of having the largest WiFi network in the world, with over 4.5 million hotspots. With the help of partners like Belgacom, we can grow even more, helping people stay connected regardless of their location.

Today I am in Belgium to announce Fon’s partnership with Belgacom, a great company with fixed and mobile operations in a country of 11 million people. Together with the largest telco company in Belgium we will build the largest WiFi community in Belgium and extend Fon’s WiFi footprint, currently with more than 4 million hotspots all over the world. But this is not only an important day for Belgacom’s customers and Foneros. It’s an important day for Fon as it shows the world again that some of the leading telcos in the world realize that Fon can help them to provide a better mobile user experience for their customers if they join our WiFi community.

This partnership is also more proof that, as I explain in this post from 2010, operators are increasingly realizing the power of WiFi in order to provide a better user experience and to offload the enormous amount of data traffic that is congesting their mobile networks. The growth in demand for mobile bandwidth is far outpacing the growth in capacity, with people now spending more time using mobile apps than surfing the web.

Since our first partnership with BT in the UK in 2007, interest in Fon from fixed and mobile telcos and hardware manufacturers has ballooned. In the past years we have demonstrated what we knew all along - that we can help our partners to provide a service which their subscribers appreciate… and thereby help them to reduce CAPEX, decrease churn, attract new customers, differentiate and freshen up their brand image. And today, six years after starting from scratch, we are talking to big telco incumbents in different countries. We’re thrilled to now be working with Belgacom, and though I can’t say specifically with whom Fon will partner next, I can say that this probably won’t be the last partnership we get to announce this year.

Update: here’s what the media is saying about our new partnership:

http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/06/28/fon-creates-largest-wifi-network-in-belgium-heres-an-awesome-graphic-to-explain-why/

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15194360,00.html

http://www.zdnet.be/news/129013/belgacom-rolt-4g-uit/ for my Belgian readers :)

I just met with Micha Benoliel, the founder of Opengarden. If you have a rooted Android I recommend you try Opengarden. Opengarden is not your typical tethering app. Opengarden not only creates a hotspot out of your Android phone which is something that now most Androids do, but it also makes you a member of Opengarden allowing you to mesh. So for example if you find encrypted WiFi and you know the password you can mesh or act as a bridge and give WiFi to someone else (still not sure to how many others). Also you can have 3G and give WiFi to others and then another person can obtain this signal and grow the garden without being connected to 3G. I can see how this can be useful at conferences for example or places where many people are in one place. What I don’t share is Micha’s vision that this Opengarden can somehow be a permanent garden of smartphones always active. But I like the idea!

This has been a very good week for Fon. I’m very excited to announce that my lawyer Douglas from Ostrolenk Faber sent me an e-mail telling me that an important patent we filed in 2006, issued on Tuesday.
Simplifying all the legal details, the patent basically boils down to this: it protects the core business model of Fon in the US.

As most of you already know, with Fon “you share WiFi at home and you roam the world for free connecting to like-minded people”. For those of you unfamiliar with our business model, here’s how it works: one user, the Fonero, connects a Fonera WiFi router to his DSL/Cable/Fiber internet source or modem. Thereby he creates a Fon hotspot. If a Fonero wants to connect to another Fonero’s hotspot, he can do so for free in any of our 3.7 million hotspots of the largest and fastest growing WiFi network in the world. If a non-Fonero (at Fon we call this person an “Alien”) is in range of the Fonero’s hotspot and wants to connect to the internet with any WiFi device, he can do so for a moderate access fee.

The good thing about our technology is that it is not tied to the Foneras. Our software can transform almost any standard WiFi router into a Fonera! This makes it easy for most ISPs (like BT) to convert their routers into Foneras and make the Fon community even larger.

What’s special about this patent is that it relies on the community aspect of Fon. It specifically requires at least two users to share their bandwidth through two separate WiFi routers, which seems pretty obvious but is important when it comes down to the legal aspect. This is also what sets Fon apart from other WiFi networks that work without Foneros and offer only paid access to the internet.

In summary, this patent is very good news for us and will give our future business partners in the US even more reasons/confidence to work with us, accelerating our growth. It is also good news for people in the US since the availability of WiFi hotspots will increase dramatically during the next few years. And, of course, this patent means good news for all existing Foneros, who will soon be able to roam more and more parts of the US for free!

SoftBank store at Shibuya; few minutes walk fr...

Image via Wikipedia

Fon’s WiFi network is by far the largest in Japan with over a million hotspots of which over half a million are on at any one time. Normally the Fon network is free to those who share WiFi (known as Foneros) and other users pay. Given the current emergency in Japan, and the failure of some mobile networks as a result of the earthquake, Fon has decided to open our network to all of those in Japan. The software changes required are being worked on at our headquarters in Madrid and will be ready in an estimated 3 hours or around 6pm Spanish time. Japan is 7 hours ahead of us so it will be around 1am in Japan when all our hotspots are open to the general public. We hope those stranded or in need find the Fon network useful. We also encourage owners of Fon WiFi routers who may not have their Fon WiFi routers (Foneras) connected to connect them to help anyone who may need connectivity.  All this is being done in collaboration with our friends at Softbank who currently distribute Foneras in Japan.  We would like to send our condolences to the families of those who died in this sad tragedy and wish all in Japan a quick recovery from this natural disaster.

Update: Work done in Madrid, the Fon WiFi network in Japan is now open for all to use until the emergency is over. I would like to thank our colleagues at Softbank, our engineers in Spain and above all the Japanese foneros who make this possible.

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