Tomorrow we will release the FON software. With this software download and a Linux enabled access point, anybody can turn their wifi access point into a hotspot and choose to either charge (the BILL mode) or share (the LINUS mode). Now reading about municipal wifi networks I wonder. After we release the FON software, should cities continue spending money to build wifi networks? Aren´t wifi networks already built by private individuals, but because of a lack of a unifying software such as FON´s, they are now unavailable? Wouldn´t taxpayers prefer to donate part of their bandwidth at home in exchange for bandwidth elsewhere rather than pay for municipal infrastructure? I think so.
Tomorrow, we’re launching FON in Sweden. Right now, I’m at the SIME scandinavian conference on the Internet. Sweden is an interesting case because people here are fascinated with the idea of FON, but not because you can earn money through FON nor because you can save money. Here, bandwidth is very large and very cheap. What Swedes seem to really like in FON is the idea of having a unified WiFi network with large bandwidth. They say that 3G was simply not good enough. There are companies here that offer fiber-optic connections in your home at speeds of up to 100Mb for only 30 EUR. Una locura, as we say in spanish. These are the only connections I’ve seen where the bottle neck is WiFi at 54 Mb.
This Friday, i asked to have a demonstration on how it is to surf at those speeds. For me, it’s a little like someone who’s going to go for a spin in a Ferrari.
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!