You don’t usually expect innovation to come from big established players like incumbent telecom operators. They usually have invested so much in legacy technologies and traditional business models that hardly anything new or disruptive can come out of their labs. But sometimes there are exceptions. I’ve recently learned about ClubADSL, a new service the Spanish incumbent Telefónica is developing to increase the capacity of residential ADSL users by sharing broadband with their neighbors.

The technology Telefónica is testing could soon allow users to connect simultaneously to multiple wireless access points to get more bandwidth for services like HD video or other bandwidth hungry applications. The bandwidth available to an user will be the sum of the bandwidth available to him and his nearest neighbors. This is based on the fact that WiFi connections offer far larger capacity then that provided by a DSL line and that users rarely use their DSL connection to its full potential. ClubADSL will equally share the bandwidth available between customers in the same Club and guarantee the quality of service for each subscriber by giving him prioritized access to his own DSL line.

How does this compare to FON? Both FON and ClubADSL users use WiFi to share their bandwidth with others, but Foneros do it to roam for free on other Fonspots, while members of ClubADSL do it to get more bandwidth at home. This proposition is clearly very different. Nonetheless Telefonica could possibly use the same technology to allow users to connect to ClubADSL connections when you are not at home. There are many privacy and security concerns involved when creating a similar network. We at FON have solved these thanks to our Fonera, the router that gives you two WiFi signals, a public and a private signal, and lets you choose how much of your bandwidth you want to share with Foneros and Aliens. Our partnerships with operators like BT, Neuf and ZON demonstrate FON is the best option for a telecom operator that wants to expand its WiFi footprint and give more value to their users, that can then use their Internet connection at home and roam the world for free.

madridDopplr, a company I have invested in, recently added a new set of features that let you mark places you’ve been in cities around the world, like quality restaurants and hotels, as well as other places to explore. It’s something like a for travel, a streamlined city guide that aggregates the collective intelligence and experience of travelers like you. Dopplr calls it the social atlas. You can find pages for all the main destinations in the world, see for example Madrid, Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Sydney.

As you visit cities around the world, Dopplr will alert you to the places your network has been and enjoyed. Dopplr has made marking places as easy as possible: wherever you see a place you can click on the green “+” next to it to say you’ve “been here”. Click a second time to say “you’ve been there and liked it”. If you want to undo all of this, just click a third time.

In other news, Dopplr now lets you easily add trips using Twitter, simply sending a direct message to dopplr, something like “d dopplr a trip to London on May 19th until May 23rd”. You can add trips via email as well.

My friend Marko Ahtisaari has joined Dopplr’s team as CEO at the beginning of the year and will focus on improving the user experience, strengthening the team and building out the business model.

Zer01 Mobile is a new virtual mobile operator (MVNO) in the US that will use AT&T’s wireless network to offer voice and data services to their users. What is interesting about Zer01 Mobile is that all voice calls will be VoIP and the company will deliver them over AT&T’s data network using its own IP backbone. The service will include unlimited voice and data access and cost $69.95 per month without a contract. Zer01 Mobile will also offer unlimited international calling to 40 countries for an additional $10 per month. What they are doing is essentially undercutting AT&T‘s, Verizon‘s and T-Mobile‘s all you can eat $99 plans using AT&T’s own network. Quite impressive.

zeroAll voice calls on Zer01 Mobile will be delivered using a VoIP application that runs on Windows Mobile 6 phones and will soon be available on Android, Blackberry, Symbian, Java and eventually jailbroken iPhones. This application lets users dial numbers from their phone’s keypad without launching a separate app, meaning users won’t have to change their habits to call using Zer01 Mobile. The application and network equipment the service runs on is optimized to enable VoIP on EDGE and GPRS data connections, something almost unprecedented. Zer01 Mobile plans to launch with a closed beta in April and will soon announce a commercial launch date.

While most mobile carriers are still focused on voice traffic, Zer01 Mobile looks more like a mobile data service provider that gives you real unlimited data and cheap voice as well, in form of an easy to use VoIP app. Traditional wireless carriers have worked out data traffic on mobile devices will be huge, but are still trying to figure out how to make it as profitable as their overpriced voice and SMS traffic.

An MVNO like Zer01 Mobile could hardly exist in Europe, because of the expensive termination charges that mobile operators impose to other companies wishing to terminate calls on their networks. A similar VoIP based MVNO in Europe could probably offer cheap calls to fixed lines and international destinations, but wouldn’t be able to compete with local mobile operators in mobile to mobile traffic.

UK based Truphone has adopted a similar approach and is increasingly looking like a VoIP powered mobile operator for the international traveller. They now offer SIM cards that you can use in any of the supported countries (with no roaming fees and multiple local numbers) and cheap international calls via WiFi or local gateways.

Thank you Pietro for your help in this post.

After months of hard work, our development team at FON has just released the latest, production release of the firmware for our upcoming Fonera 2.0, a release codenamed Platero. I’d like to congratulate with all the people at FON involved in this project for the terrific work they’ve done. The Fonera 2.0 will be available from early April, more details to come soon.

The Fonera 2.0 is the WiFi router that helps users easily manage their relationship with the Web 2.0. Foneros not only will make money and roam the world for free but will also be able to manage their storage, backup, uploading and downloading activities, thanks to a USB port and a selection of plugins developed by the community. The Fonera 2.0 will also be totally open to developers, that will have the chance to program their own applications for other Foneros, making use of the USB port and the open programming environment.

Here is a list of all the new features introduced with this release, including a Torrent downloader and a Youtube uploader.

  • Installation wizard. Some questions will be asked the first time you connect to the fonera 2.0 and type “fonera” on your browser.
  • Youtube Uploader. Take a pen drive, put all your videos in a folder named “youtube” and plug it to the fonera. Your videos will be automatically uploaded to your YouTube account! This is a real 2.0 router.
  • Torrent downloader. Get some torrent files, upload them to the fonera and this will download them for you. You can turn your computer off and go to bed. Platero will do the work :)
  • MegaUpload and RapidShare downloads. Yes, we never announced this. How does it sound? Configure your RS or MU account, copy a big lot of MU or RS links from the Internet and paste them on the fonera interface. The fonera will download the. But wait… you don’t want to download stuff while you surf? no worries, tell Platero to download things at a certain time frame, while you sleep for instance!
  • 3G provider list. Have a 3G USB dongle and don’t know your configuration settings? No worries, tell the fonera your country and your 3G provider… Platero knows the rest (except for your PIN, of course :P )
  • Need help? check our videos. Every page in the fonera GUI now has a help button. It will take you to a video where our lovely colleague Martina will tell you how to use that page. Ain’t it sweet? More videos and improvements are coming!
  • More to come… we’re already developing new features (improved interface), new applications (VPN, advanced networking, Picasa uploader, iStremer for iTunes…), fixing bugs, etc.

Today I had breakfast with a lawyer friend of mine and during the conversation he started speaking about people who, as described sounded like legal hypochondriacs. When I asked him if that´s what how it felt to deal with these type of clients he agreed. So what is a legal hypochondriac? If a hypochondriac is a person who wrongly believes that he/she is very sick and may die, a legal hypochondriac is a person who frequently believes that he/she committed a serious crime and may go to jail.

As a result of the Alabama and German massacres of this week I asked Joaquin Mirkin of my foundation to put together for me what I call the Shortened Life Index.  This index is the addition of the murder rate and the suicide rate of a country.  Now what is interesting about this index is that there clearly is an inverse correlation between suicide rates and homicide rates around the world.  Countries with very high suicide rates tend to have very low homicide rates and viceversa.  I don´t know why.

Some curious data. Islamic countries, known for suicide terrorists, are the countries with the lowest Shortened Life Index. Suicide terrorists are a really small percentage and the Shortened Life Index for Iran and Saudi Arabia suggest they are very safe countries to live in.

It’s safer to live in Mexico or Argentina with their frequent homicides then in Switzerland, a country with so many suicides that its Shortened Life Index is higher then the index of countries well know for being dangerous. In the US, a country known for its history of homicides, it’s actually more likely to die committing suicide then killed by somebody else.

Spain is one of the safest non Islamic countries in the world. Few homicides and few suicides. Italy, well known for its mafia and criminality, has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world. Israel has a very low Shortened Life Index as well, even if Israel is a country of immigrants coming from countries, like Russia, with high suicide and homicides rates.

Here are graphs showing the suicide rates, the homicide rates and the Shortened Life Index for a select group of countries.


Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.
Image via Wikipedia

Eolia Renovables, the renewable energy company founded by my friend Miguel Salis and in which I’m an early investor, has reported great results for 2008, despite the recession. The Eolia was started out of the offices of Jazzya, my holding company as Miguel Salis transitioned from being the Managing Director of Jazzya to the CEO of this extremely successful start up. Surprisingly Eolia was not started as a company itself but due to Miguel´s roots as a banker it was started as the first investment fund in Spain in renewable energies with financing from the investment bank Nmás1, Bankinter, BBK and Fonditel. In October last year Eolia completed the roll up of over 22 independent wind and solar development companies into a new company, which has resulted in the creation of the largest Spanish independent wind and solar electricity generation company, Eolia Renovables de Inversiones.

According to a recent Clean Energy Trends report, global revenues from the solar photovoltaics, wind power and biofuels sectors increased 53% in 2008, to $115.9 billion from $75.8 billion in 2007, with one sector alone, wind, exceeding $50 billion revenues.

Eolia’s revenue growth for 2008 outpaced the industry, reporting sales for almost 70 million euros, a 134% increase over the previous year. The consolidated EBITDA for 2008 reached 52 million euros, a 96% increase compared to 2007. If we included revenues from three companies acquired by Eolia in 2008 (Renergys, Deca and Asetym), sales for the past year would amount to 81 million euros, with a 62 million euros EBITDA. Eolia recently acquired 100% of Renergys, a paneuropean group dedicated to the construction and operation of wind farms in Germany, France, Poland and Portugal, and Asetym, a company I used to own that operates 35 solar plants in Murcia, Spain. In 2008 Eolia also acquired 45% of Deca, a company operating a 20 megawatts (MW) wind farm in Spain.

Wind energy amounts to 64% of Eolia’s total sales, while solar energy revenues add up to the remainder 36%, with the latter growing substantially from 2007, when solar energy sales were 29% of total revenues.

Wind capacity installed in Spain in 2008

Wind capacity installed in Spain in 2008

Capex for 2008 grew to 659 million euros, on account of a 160% increase in installed capacity from 167 MW to 434 MW, an investment that gave Eolia the 4th ranking in Spain for new wind capacity installed during 2008. Last year the company started 5 wind farms in Spain, adding 141 MW to its total capacity, and 4 solar plants with a 35.8 MW capacity. As mentioned, the company also acquired two wind farms for 89 MW additional capacity and a 3.5 MW solar plant.

Eolia will keep growing in 2009, thanks to seven new wind farms being built in Spain, France and Poland, for an additional 171 MW. The company expects its total capacity to reach 553 MW by the end of the first quarter, three times the total capacity at the end of 2007.

The financial crisis is of course affecting the alternative energy industry, making it harder for companies to finance their projects. The horrible conditions of the stock markets render IPOs impossible and fewer IPOs in turn make it harder for venture capital firms to exit their investments and finance new companies. Last year Eolia was expected to go public on the Madrid stock market at a valuation between 800 and 900 million euros, but due to the market conditions the company had to postpone its listing plans.

Nonetheless, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), strong policy support for wind power will continue to drive growth in China, Europe and the United States, bringing global wind power capacity to nearly triple in the next five years, although growing slower then in the past.

While 2009 will definitely be a tough year, the future looks bright for Eolia and alternative energy, despite the current economic conditions.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Disclosure: I am a shareholder in Eolia.

I guess one of the casualties of the Great Recession is inequity. And that is not bad. So far the biggest casualties of the economic crisis are the world´s richest people. According to Forbes in only one year The net worth of the world’s billionaires fell from $4.4 trillion to $2.4 trillion, while the number of billionaires was down to 793 from 1,125.
. Another positive impact of the crisis is the biggest decline in carbon emissions. I am trying to get information on that but last night I had dinner with one of the largest toll highway operators in the world and traffic is down from 10 to 20 per cent.

And this is a senseless coincidence. But I could not resist that on March 11th the top three stories I see in Reuters are:

# Gunman kills at least 11 people at German school
# Madoff faces life in prison on 11 criminal charges
# Eleven killed in Alabama shooting spree

What is it with 11???

This is a great example of the new Fonera 2.0 can do. Thank you Jamendo Team!

Español / English

Subscribe to e-mail bulletin:
Recent Tweets