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

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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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After four years of working with Google as CEO of Fon (Google is our largest non financial investor) I would like to share what my experience has been like as a way to answer what I consider Larry’s biggest challenge as new CEO is. I write what follows in a spirit of friendship, with tremendous admiration for what Google has accomplished, and gratitude for its investment in Fon.

Google is an incredible company, a global giant that has just announced record financial results. A company that was built with a combination of great ideas coming mainly from its founders and amazing execution on the part of Eric Schmidt. But the biggest challenge I see at Google is that it still works like a university. This needs to change. At Google many managers come up with their own projects, frequently without a real connection to the whole enterprise and without real leadership from the top. As a result most fail. Google is a collection of brilliant minds, which is great for research but not for the execution of a visionary masterplan.

My concrete experience with Google relates to WiFi. In this field over the last four years I had the opportunity of watching Google hoping and failing to become globally relevant in WiFi connectivity. In the meantime 50 employee Fon has become the largest WiFi network in the world with over 3 million hotspots mostly in Japan and the UK, growing in other countries and hopefully soon in USA as well. But other than the investment for which we are grateful, everything else we tried to do with Google was a failure.

What I saw in Google’s WiFi´s effort were different “professors” running around with different ideas, trying to line up Google resources behind them only to end up with aborted projects. Initiatives like WiFi San Francisco, municipal WiFi throughout USA, never took off because of lack of company wide support. And WiFi is but one example. There are many areas in which Google has experimented and failed because of lack of vision, focus and consistency. For example the Orkut vs Facebook lost battle or the Twitter vs Buzz debacle. Googlers work for a great corporation but when they need company wide support for their initiatives most of the time they don’t get it. Sometimes they leave in frustration. Employee churn is now a big problem at Google and it needs not be. Churn comes from first making people believe they can do anything but then depriving them of the company support that is needed to succeed in their endeavors.

What Larry Page needs to do now is to change this situation and this can only be done by narrowing Google’s focus. Larry needs to spend weeks going over each Google project in detail. In this process he only needs to ask: Does this project make search or Android better? If it does not, kill it, and redeploy those talented employees into projects that do. And Sergey, in his new role as the head of business development needs to have the same discipline and only stick to new projects that enhance the two core areas of the company search which includes ads, and Android. Android is an incredible success so far and can be the computing platform of the future. Google TV should also be closely integrated with Youtube and in the end be part of Android. Youtube is another amazing but disjointed asset, add full length content and music to it and you have the iTunes that Android needs. Google Chrome is a huge success and that is good because those of us who use it (120 million of us) love to search off the browser box. If Larry succeeds in focusing, and I think he will, Google employees will work in projects that are backed by the company and are part of a common vision. Employee churn will decrease. Google will do even better.

As it stands today, in terms of management, Google is the opposite of Apple. Steve Jobs, who I had a chance to meet in private, is a genius dictator with a very strong vision. The whole company aligns behind him to execute. And lately, Apple’s Spartan style is winning over Google’s democracy. Larry and Sergey need to learn from Steve: to lead, to be tough and to say no (but hopefully without Steve’s ability to humiliate others when making a point). Google, like Apple, needs to adopt great design. I know that both Larry and Sergey come from the design school of “I don’t care how it looks so long as it works brilliantly”. Still I wonder how many people are not using AdSense because of how ugly the ads are. Apple has shown that both design and functionality are needed to succeed. For us at Fon, Apple, a company that is not even our investor, has been surprisingly easier to deal with than Google. Apple wants WiFi everywhere. That simple. In Japan, every iPhone is sold with a Fonera so there is more WiFi. We did a simple integration, it works well, and we have deployed millions of foneras in Japan together with Softbank. At Google, so far, we have been unable to integrate with Android regardless of the fact that we are partly owned by Google. We are millions of units ahead with iOS than Android. And every other project that we tried to implement with Google did not get off the ground. Failed to gain company wide support.

We all like democracy, but businesses, whether we like it or not, are more dictatorships than democracies. Even employees who like to debate issues outside of work prefer a clear sense of direction from those at the top at work. A clear mission. Google is not a start up that needs to find its destiny. Google has found its destiny and it is great. Time has come to focus on it and execute with a more forceful management style.

Disclosure: I am a happy Google shareholder and I am thankful to Eric, Larry, Sergey and all Google employees for their rising value.

Good news continue at Fon. Today we’re announcing a new collaboration with Skype, one of our first investors. At Fon, like at many other companies, we use Skype to talk to each other. I use it with my family all the time and I really think it’s a must-have application, so I’m really happy to announce we’re working with Skype to provide Fon WiFi via Skype Access.

During the initial phase of this project, we are offering Skype Access at 300.000 hotspots around the world (except Japan and UK). Anyone with a Skype account will be able to connect to a Fon Spot using Skype credit. This is a great way to forget about inserting credit card details every time you want to connect. For ‘Aliens’, connecting to the hotpots with Skype Access is super convenient. Skype will search for Fon Spots, and when a Fon Spot is in range it will show a pop up window with the price per minute to connect with Skype credit. One click, you are connected, that easy.

With this collaboration we take another step to make it easier for everyone to access the Fon WiFi network, which continues to be the biggest in the world with more than 3 million hotspots worldwide. The Skype Access collaboration is beneficial for our entire Fonero community. ‘Bills’ get to keep 50% of the revenues from their Fon Spots and ‘aliens’ get a quick and efficient way to pay for and connect to Fon WiFi. Ultimately, what we want is for Skype users to join the Fon community. All they need to do is buy a Fonera SIMPL (39€/$49) and start roaming the world for free!

After having sold over 2 million Fonera Simpl WiFi routers to telcos, we are now making our newest Fonera available to everyone online through our new Fon site. We sell it for 39 Euros / 49 USD.The Simpl is our newest palm-sized router, targeted to smartphone and tablet-PC users. With the new Fonera Simpl when you connect to Fon WiFi at home or on the go, you can Torrent,  listen to Spotify, stream YouTube videos and download and install heavy applications in a way that’s fast, simple and useful, without eating up your 3G credit and straining 3G networks.

FoneraSIMPLaltShot2The Fonera Simpl is really attractive to mobile operators. Customers only need to plug their Fonera Simpl into their fixed internet connection and can easily configure their smart devices to connect automatically to any Fon signal.  It offers several connection solutions for the SIMPL to assist users who want a hassle-free connection to Fon WiFi at home and on the go. New WPS functionality allows users to easily connect smart devices to their private WiFi signal with the touch of a button (on the back of the SIMPL). Smart devices can also be easily configured to connect automatically to the public Fon WiFi signal whenever one is within range. Fon offers downloadable connection applications for devices ranging from Android or Blackberry, based on the WISPr recommendation from the WFA, to the iPhone. The value to mobile operators from traffic offloading on overloaded 3G networks is very tangible and Fon is offering an easy and affordable solution to ease this problem and create great user experience.

The new Fonera SIMPL includes:

  • 1 WAN Ethernet port (for ADSL/Cable modem)
  • 1 LAN Ethernet port (for PC)
  • 1 SSID (Open, WEP, WPA, WPA2)
  • 1 SSID (Fon network)
  • 802.11n (150 Mbps)
  • 802.11b/g (54 Mbps) compatible
  • Detachable, external antenna

I’m very happy to announce that Broadcom, the leading company in providing cable solutions based on DOCSIS®, has finished adding the Fon software to its latest SDK. This is one more step, and a big one this time, into growing the Fon network towards making “WiFi everywhere” a real claim.

With this integration, Broadcom enables any manufacturer using their cable solution to make Fon ready routers in no time, saving development time and costs as well as providing professional support for future maintenance and improvement.

This has benefits for all Foneros, since it will allow the Fon network to grow even faster, for router manufacturers, who will be able to provide Fon ready solutions much faster and in a safe way, and for the ISPs, since they will be able to market Fon solutions much faster even upgrading their existing router base when possible.

All in all, great news for the WiFi market!

Is that a lot? Well huge companies like T Mobile have say, 70,000, France Telecom, Telefonica, ATT, Verizon, less than T Mobile. But we grow over a T Mobile every month. And we are happy because between you and I, 2 years ago, things looked awful at Fon. Laptops were not able to generate enough interest in WiFi roaming. But then the iPhone came along. The iPhone, that beautiful bandwidth hog. We were also helped by netbooks, Androids, iPods, iPads, tablets, game consoles and all kinds of smartphones. WiFi gadgets are everywhere. Demand for WiFi exceeds supply. And at Fon, together with our telco partners such as BT, SFR, Zon, and others we are working hard so there is WiFi everywhere as an accessible signal. As we like to say, with Fon you share a little WiFi at home and roam the world for free.

Are we happy? Contentos si, but not content. We want more WiFi. We are going for 10 million fonspots!!

Here are some pictures of Fon managers in Madrid I took this afternoon at our “cuartel general”. We need to add those of our managers around the world. Our Foneros. Viva Free WiFi.

It is no secret to anyone that the Russian market has enormous potential. Hundreds of thousands of companies are trying to develop projects there, counting on many millions in return on their investments. At Fon, we’ve established a joint project with JSFC Sistema (MTS-Comstar). MTS-Comstar has around 100 million subscribers, making it one of the most important mobile operators in the region. Eugin Koryagin, who worked with Comstar, is now the head of Fon Russia and leads the joint initiative.

The aim of the project, which began in 2008, was to create a major WiFi network in Moscow. Today, I can say with confidence that we have achieved that objective. As of the 30th of September, Comstar–Fon has 20,000 hotspots, making it largest WiFi network in Moscow. That’s double the number of hotspots in just two months and quadruple the number we had at the beginning of 2010.

By the end of 2010, we plan on reaching 50,000 active hotspots in Moscow. We also plan to maintain presence in all the MTS Group of Companies converging products, and to start commercial operation of the Fon network in Moscow and all over Russia.  All this will allow Foneros and non-Foneros worldwide to add Russia to the list of countries where they have seamless access to the internet!

Hotspot Map

The BT FON WiFi network has grown to 1.6 million hotspots in the UK alone. That is a incredible amount of WiFi in one place compared to other networks, like T-Mobile’s WiFi network, that has only 10 thousand in the US.  And now, there is another reason to make your friends in the States jealous, the BT FON autoconnection app for iPhone and Android.

The new BT FON app lets BT Total Broadband customers choose to be automatically logged in to WiFi whenever they are near a BT Fon or Openzone hotspot. Sure, there are a lot of third-party apps already available that detect WiFi. But, they often lead to locked or paid hotspots. This new app is much better. It avoids all that, autoconnects, and it’s free.

Another great feature is the WiFi map that shows all the hotspots nearby, so you’ll always know where to find one. But of course the real advantage here is being able to connect to WiFi easily away from home, and this is why the BT FON partnership works so well. We all want the same thing. WiFi everywhere. The BT FON app brings us one step closer to that reality.

Download the free mobile app for iPhone. (Must be in the UK to download.)

Download the free mobile app for Android. (Must be in the UK to download.)

Your download of the BT FON mobile app also contributes to BBC Children in Need.

To learn more, please read the BT press release, or visit

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At Fon we are selling the Fonera 2.0 to developers who write apps but if you really believe that the expense is outside of your budget please write to me at requesting a Fonera 2.0 and what you plan to do with it and if I like the idea I will be happy send you one for free. If you already bought one and you came up with a good app we will send you a refund.

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In this video John Crispin from Fon shows how a Fonera can obtain WiFi from a 3G modem. If you are a developer and would like to write apps for the new Fonera 2.0 pls write to

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