A dream come true
Published by MartinVarsavsky.net in Fon with No Comments
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.
In coming days I’ll use this blog to tell you how we ended up here, including all the adventures we’ve had in the past few months moving from Madrid to Stockholm to London to Silicon Valley. I’ve promised to blog FON since the beginning. I’ve had to be quiet during the past weeks as we finalized our arrangements, but now I can use this space to tell about how backers like Niklas and Janus from Skype, our friends at Google or Danny Rimer of Index and Mike Moritz of Sequoia were so helpful in shaping and supporting our idea. I had never been to Silicon Valley until FON came about. Showing up from Spain with a business plan in my pocket and getting the support of two of the largest internet companies in the world in less than one month made me realize how it is that American dominates the internet. It´s all about willing to take risks. In this case what was unique was how rivals got together to collaborate at FON. This is understandable as unifying all the disparate WiFi signal out there and offering the internet everywhere has benefits for all Internet sites and ISPs involved (in the case of ISPs because FON is only free only after you sign up with a broadband ISP so FON is an added advantage at no cost to the ISP).
Now we turn to the task of building the movement. As you’ll see if you go to download our software, one of our first priorities is going to be expanding the platforms we work with. Today, if you’ve got a Linksys router (version WRT54G 4 and below, and WRT54GL/GS) you’re just a few clicks away from becoming a functioning Fonero. This router is costing us around 50 dollars at Linksys but for a limited time we are selling it for 25 dollars FON ready as we want to have as many Foneros as possible. A warning here. Becoming a Fonero if you already have a Linksys router is not as simple as say, downloading Skype. If you are not sure of your technical skills it is better that you simply buy a FON ready router. A second warning relates to your ISP. While we do know that some ISPs like Speakeasy in America allow FON do check with your ISP before installing FON as they may not yet allow it. At FON however we believe that as we sign more revenue share agreements with ISPs they will end up allowing FON since FON is not a free WiFi platform but a free roaming platform among paying customers. In the meantime we’re already working on software for other routers and we’ll roll them out as quickly as we can. (You can click here to sign up for an email note from us when we’ve got software for your router model.) In the future people will become foneros by working off more router models. At FON we have one simple idea: if you have broadband at home, you should have it wherever else you go — free. Like Skype, FON is one of those low cost high advantage proposition as the chance of other foneros coming by your place is low (and in any case our software limits their bandwidth consumption to 50% at most) but the benefit to you and your WiFi enabled gadgets of having free WiFi roaming will be big when many foneros sign up.
Now how do we plan to make money at FON? At FON we plan to make money with characters we call the Aliens. To us the world is divided into Linus, Bills and Aliens. A Linus shares his/her bandwidth for free with other Foneros, Bills share their bandwidth for a small fee, and Aliens don’t share their bandwidth at all.
If you capture FON´s signal and you are not a fonero in 120 days you will have to pay to use the FON signal. Our rates for Aliens will be like those of public transportation, a price of a subway or bus ticket. So FON will provide either free WiFi or very low cost WiFi. Still if you are using FON everyday it´s better that you become Fonero by signing up for broadband with your local ISP cause those low cost rates add up to more than their monthly charges if you log in everyday. What do we do with the money from Aliens? We share it with the ISPs so they support FON. Also in case you are interested in FON only to make some money and not to get free WiFi roaming we also share it with you. At FON you can choose. If you become a fonero to obtain free WiFi everywhere you are a Linus fonero, if you become a fonero to make money out of your WiFi connection you are a Bill fonero. We at FON think the world is built by Bills and Linuses (Bill comes from Bill Gates and Linus from Linus Torvalds) and enjoyed by both builders (Foneros) and Aliens who just like to enjoy things without caring much about building them.
Here’s what Skype thinks about this dream… and also talk about FON Rebeca Mackinnon , Dan Gilmor , Ejovi Nuwere , Ethan Zuckerman ,Wendy Seltzer …
And this is me at the moment of posting this entry. I am at the home of my dear friends Bruce Feiler and Linda Rottenberg, their baby, Eden, was crawling under me, Bruce captured the moment.
Let’s have FON!
Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars
PiruloARG on February 5, 2006 ·
Luca Conti on February 5, 2006 ·
Congrats Martin 🙂
alfonso on February 6, 2006 ·
Great News! Having Skype and Google on board is key. All the best to you & your team.
Hasta la victoria!
a swiss Fonrero
Pedro Beltrao on February 6, 2006 ·
Looks great 🙂 I hope it works.
Robert J. Berger on February 6, 2006 ·
Congratulations! Now to change the telecom world!
beatdeal on February 6, 2006 ·
congrats Martin. this start a new world
Bobby on February 6, 2006 ·
Enhorabuena desde India. Let us develop FONEROS aqui.
P.S. Estoy seguro que tu no recuerdes, I had asked you about collaborating during the last phase of your Jazztel days.
Dimitar Vesselinov on February 6, 2006 ·
Congratulations! Let the revolution begin!
jan Michael Hess on February 6, 2006 ·
Martin, you are the man.
I am one of the early foneros here in Berlin. Global WiFi will rock and it definitely needs a marketing hack. Now, with your new friends, your marketing hack is going to multiply. Please use the funds also for optimising the usability. I had big probs with your plug and play fon ready router here in Berlin as PPPoE was missing.
Hire some good developers and usability engineers and go for it. The marketing hack will be done by bloggers.
fon fans unite!
Neok on February 6, 2006 ·
Viva la revolucion WiFi!
heiko hebig on February 6, 2006 ·
Very interesting news. Excited to see how the company will shape.
Michael on February 6, 2006 ·
You are argentinien but no hotspots or foneros from you in argentina? Well sounds like a nice idea but actually it makes the population of hotspots not bigger. Only the way how isp sell there hotspots change. So i cant see why so much people here are so enthusiastic.
Robert Young on February 6, 2006 ·
Your project, FON, is one of the most interesting ventures I’ve come across in a long time… it’s both ambitious and noble. Early last year, I wrote this piece http://www.gigaom.com/2005/03/22/100-megabits-at-the-edge/ for Om, and you are making it happen!
Congrats and good luck!
ouriel on February 6, 2006 ·
Thanks for mentionning ICQ as a success story 🙂 Wish you all the best
WT Muth on February 6, 2006 ·
Congradulation on this most important breakthrough. Ubiquity, access, and true mobility in one nice package with the support of the leading players in this space. Nicely done. Now comes the hard work of leveraging into real jobs to get done by the subscribers and FONero Linus’ and Bill’s. Alien’s beware
AC on February 6, 2006 ·
Aquí va una noticia de la spanish start-up…
Google, Skype in Startup to Link Hotspots
By AP Online
Last Update: 2/5/2006 10:07:00 PM Data provided by
NEW YORK, Feb 05, 2006 (AP Online via COMTEX) — Google Inc. and eBay Inc.’s Skype are investing in a startup that plans to help hotspot owners charge for Wi-Fi access, a plan that could face significant opposition from Internet service providers.
The Internet heavyweights were joined by venture capital firms Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital in making a $22 million investment in FON, the Spanish startup. In its announcement Sunday, FON did not say how much each investor was contributing.
FON’s idea, floated just three months ago in a Web posting by founder Martin Varsavsky, is to sign up people who have Wi-Fi hotspots in one of two ways.
“Linus” members, named after Linus Torvalds, who created the freely distributed Linux software, will share their hotspot with other Linus members for free.
“Bill” members, named after Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, will charge for access to their hotspot. FON will get some of that revenue, and share it with Internet service providers, or ISPs.
The network has gained 3,000 Linus members since going live in November. There is no software yet for Bill members, but Varsavsky expects it to be ready within four months. Linus software is so far only available for Wi-Fi routers from Linksys, a division of Cisco Systems Inc.
FON faces a hurdle in that most ISPs prohibit subscribers from sharing internet access with people outside their household. Many broadband subscribers share their access now for free, though, and it’s hard for Internet service providers to stop them.
Traffic from a FON-connected hotspot would be easy for an ISP to identify, said Glen Fleishman, editor of the Wi-Fi Networking News site, because users have to authenticate themselves at a FON server.
Varsavsky wants to partner with ISPs to get them to allow their subscribers to set up FON hotspots. It has signed up a Swedish ISP, Glocalnet, and is in discussions with U.S. companies.
To win over the ISPs, Varsavsky points out that Linus members need Internet service to be Linus members.
“So in fact, FON is an incentive to become a customer of an ISP,” he said.
Mark Harrad, a spokesman at Time Warner Cable, said the company was not aware of FON’s plans. Its terms of service prohibit its 4.8 million residential broadband subscribers from sharing their connection outside the household.
Representatives at Google did not return messages seeking comment on the search engine’s investment in FON.
Skype’s Internet telephone service works over wireless connections, and a cell-phone-like device is in the works to take advantage of that fact.
“FON has a great idea to help people share Wi-Fi with one another to build a global unified broadband network, and were happy to lend support,” Skype Chief Executive Niklas Zennstrom said in a statement.
FON’s idea is not entirely novel – in fact, several companies and associations have tried to tie together free Wi-Fi hotspots into networks, but none has succeeded on a large scale.
“The problem with all these free projects is that they fail because everybody wants to be a freeloader and nobody wants to provide Wi-Fi,” said Varsavsky. FON, on the other hand, demands reciprocal sharing from its Linus users.
There are also commercial Wi-Fi networks built by T-Mobile USA and Boingo Wireless Inc. with hotspots in more than 50,000 locations. Varsavsky hopes to have a much larger network by the end of the year because FON doesn’t have to create the hotspots by itself.
Fleishman said FON has a chance to reach a critical mass of users, but it will be competing with free or low-cost municipal Wi-Fi networks in several cities. Google has itself offered to build a free Wi-Fi network to cover San Francisco.
Phil on February 6, 2006 ·
Great idea Martin!
I’d love to see spreading this around the globe!
Let’s work on it…
sven on February 7, 2006 ·
Don Valentine told me in 2004 that the day Sequoia will invest in Europe, one should look for the headlines in the papers: “Don Valentine kidnapped”.
I guess that only fools don’t change their mind.
FON will make the headlines instead.
Christoph Zott on February 7, 2006 ·
as a Professor of Entrepreneurship at INSEAD (you inspired our students on our Fontainebleau campus a few years ago) I would like to congratulate you on taking your highly innovative business model a significant step further to becoming reality. It is my conviction (and my research proves) that in this age of low-cost IT and communication, powerful innovation comes from new business models such as yours, and no longer just from products and processes. The backing from some of the worlds most reputable firms is an impressive testimony to that.
Best wishes, Christoph Zott
Freefi on February 9, 2006 ·
Are you going to work together with the people who have a simular network going: http://www.linspot.com? They’ve been around for almost 3 years now!
What do you think of the former ‘Joltage’, they tried a simular thing even earlier but went bankrupt. The waybackmachine-link is here.
Martín Varsavsky on February 12, 2006 ·
# 21 Freefi
Yes, of course freefi!
We are already talking to many players in the field.
Mats on February 13, 2006 ·
So it has happened now! I was pondering a few months ago when something like this would appear, when it struck me that this is the only viable way to roll out wireless broadband over the world.
Congratulations for the simple and elegant way you solved the revenue problem, which I got stuck on.
Count me in as a future fonero!
Andre Minn on February 15, 2006 ·
It is no longer news to anyone that Municipal Wi-Fi is coming everywhere. Do you or anyone have an idea when we can be benefited with Municipal Wi-Fi with voice (VoIP?)?
Martin can contact me for further discussion
Eros Caamano on February 15, 2006 ·
Brilliant Idea Martin…
Love to see how this business expand through the whole world
Im attending to your conference at IE tomorow, Hope you could talk us more about how you came with this excellent idea,.
best wishes, Eros Caamano
aleweb on February 28, 2006 ·
Congratulation for the big best idea, now i start fon hotspot in my Italy city ;-))
I buy the router, and I start the MOVEMENT!
Jim Rockingham on March 15, 2006 ·
Congratulations Martin! Sounds just the job. Lets hope this business expands through the whole world. Keep at it..
Andrew on April 18, 2006 ·
One day, I ran into a coffee shop. The owner told me they have a HotSpot. Pointing to a black box. They told me to insert 3 euro to it and the little printer by it print me a slip. On it I found a Password and URL address. I surf for an hour and it cost me only 3 metal. Good!
I also found on the slip it has a web site name. I guess it is the provider or something http://www.com2000.com.hk
Erde on April 19, 2006 ·
Congratulations and good luck with it!
Harry on June 6, 2006 ·
Hello Martin, here in Paris we have a nice Internet site which repertories all WiFi Hotspot in Paris. If you know of some cafes with a Fon hotspot, please tell us about it. And do send 3-4 photos and a comment describing the café.
mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Benajmin Hernandez on June 24, 2006 ·
Martin, I am ready and prepared to promote foneros access across the southwestern USA. The Chicano Mexican American community is ready for the Fonero technology revolution 2006.
Viva La Causa…Information World Wide WiFi
CableGuy on October 24, 2006 ·
Congrats! Go and change the world now!
Pozycjonowanie on October 27, 2006 ·
Very interesting news. Excited to see how the company will shape. Greetings from Poland
Grosshandel on November 9, 2006 ·
Congratulations – time to change the world now!
Mr. Tee on November 10, 2006 ·
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Erfolg on November 20, 2006 ·
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
orn - Buddha on November 20, 2006 ·
Great idea Martin! Good luck!!
Anzeigen on November 30, 2006 ·
The revolution rocks – this start a new world.
Logodesign on December 5, 2006 ·
I hope hope this business expands through the whole world. wish you the best !
Logodesign on December 6, 2006 ·
It is no longer news to anyone that Municipal Wi-Fi is coming everywhere. Do you or anyone have an idea when we can be benefited with Municipal Wi-Fi with voice (VoIP?)?
ranking on December 15, 2006 ·
Very interesting news. Excited to see how the company will shape ranking and pagerank
Biura on December 18, 2006 ·
I guess the name itself should be secured somehow to prevent commercialized use.
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with greetings from germany
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Lars Hinrichs on February 5, 2006 ·
you are fabulous! Congrats! We at openBC are supporting you in making your dream with 1 MioHotspots in 4 years reality!