Bills, we owe you, I know. Like we said many times in the past, the WiFi revolution needs both the socialists (the Linuses) and the “free marketeers” (the Bills). For now, perhaps unfairly, only Linuses can use FON. But what I can say to the Bills (who are waiting to set up their router and place their antena where they can catch lots of Aliens ready to pay for a connection) is that we are working very hard to set up a secure system for the Bill option to operate smoothly and safely.
Luckily, we’re not the ones who invented the idea of having a hotspots and charging users of these hotspots. Spain has 1000 charging hotspots and Europe has more than 25,000, so there are systems already tried and tested that we’re adapting. But “For when?” you ask. January 15th seems to be a reasonable date. Today, if you are a Bill you can install the firmware and sign up as a Bill as soon the Bill option is ready.
Now, who should be a Bill? If you own a bar, a restaurant, a hotel, a pharmacy, a laundro-mat, a newspaper kiosk, or if you live in a place where lots of tourists pass by, then you should be a Bill. We’re currently testing directional WiFi antenas that increase your WiFi coverage (perfect for parks!) and we’re also in talks with super Bills. Super Bills are entrepreneurs who want to invest in routers and place them in public places and then share their revenue with FON and the owners of these public places, so that the latter don’t have to buy routers themselves.
When journalists ask me why is it that I am building FON my answer is simple. To enjoy a global wifi roaming network and, if I can, to make money in the process. ¿Why do people join FON? Basically for the same reason. To have wifi roaming and, if they can, to make money in the process.
Now, what is so original about FON? It´s not the idea, hotspots as wifi payphones were invented the minute 802.11 was defined. What´s original about FON is that our software is downloaded from the net into people´s wifi access points thereby turning their own access points into members of a global wifi network. Boingo, The Cloud, Telekom, Swisscom with Eurospot or Telefonica have all built separate wifi networks to sell hotspot services. FON turns every citizen into a hotspot provider. Once they do this, they can either be Bills and charge for their wifi or Linuses and not charge but get free roaming priviledges.
I received an email from a Bill today who told me he didn’t want to let any Linuses surf the internet through his access point (AP). I asked him to look at the problem from a “probability” perspective and told him the following:
In one year alone, around one million WiFi enabled devices were sold in Spain, mostly laptops with Centrino chips. In addition, every year there are as many tourists who come to Spain as there are inhabitants, and most of those 40 million tourists come from countries where there are many more WiFi devices per capita than in Spain. So from this perspective, it might be better for you to focus more on potential clients rather than on Linuses. Indeed, as soon as you connect your AP to the FON network, you’ll have 5000 Linuses who can theoretically surf the internet for free using your connection. But this is peanuts compared to the 5 million users who will be able to pay you for using your AP. Another point to bear in mind is that Linuses have WiFi at home and share their WiFi for free but if they do use your connection, it is temporary, they will not be leeches and stay put. Remember, a Linus has WiFi in his/her house, an Alien doesn’t. A FON member chooses to be a Linus because she/he wants or is willing to share WiFi to be able to roam for free and help create a WiFi nation. And don’t worry about the Linus who will try to clone him/herself, because a Linus can have as many passwords as he wants inside his house but can only have one outside. So again, if a Linus connects to your AP, remember that it’s temporary and occasional. And one last important point: your AP is also a port of entry for Aliens to use the FON network, not just to use your AP. Through your AP, say an Alien buys 24 hours of access on FON. Well you pocket 50% of what he or she paid. And now, say you want to roam a bit, well you can sell yourself FON access through your own AP and it will cost you 50% less than what an Alien would pay (because you pocket 50% of what you paid!). In other words, as a Bill, you will be able to charge users while at the same time roam at half price.
In the end, Bills and Linus will be best of friends. Bills will like Linuses because they help increase network coverage and thus make FON more attractive to Aliens. Linuses will love Bills because they can use their APs for free!