Fon (Fon Wireless Ltd.) is a company that operates a system of dual access wireless networks.
Members, whom the company calls "Foneros", agree to share a part of their bandwidth as a Wi-Fi signal, so that they can connect to other members' hotspots. Consumers who choose not to share their Internet connection can buy Wi-Fi access passes or credit from Fon.
Fon Wireless Ltd. is a for-profit company incorporated and registered in the United Kingdom. It was created in Madrid, Spain, by Martín Varsavsky where it headquarters most of its operations. Fon also has subsidiaries and branch offices in the USA, UK, Brazil, France, Germany and Japan. Its investors include Atomico Ventures, Google, Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Skype.
To become a Fon member (Fonero) and join the Fon community, one must own a Fonera router or a router with the Fon software built in. This enables users to share a portion of their Wi-Fi bandwidth, and in exchange get the right to use other members' Fon Spots.
Types of Fon membership
Fon Members are on an equal basis, if you share Wi-Fi you can use another Fon member's Wi-Fi. This changed on December the 9th 2014 from the previous different membership types. Any built credit was returned to the member concerned.
Fon used to have three levels of membership. Not all levels were available in all countries. Especially in countries where Fon has partnered with the country's national telecoms provider (e.g. BT in the UK) the Bill profit sharing level was not available.
In countries where FON has partnered with local ISPs, such as Greece, FON may not offer any kind of membership other than through a specific ISP, thus making Fon an ISP service rather than a community.
The membership levels were:
- Linus: (named for Linus Torvalds, founder of the Linux project): has a Fonera router, shares Wi-Fi and gets free roaming at others' Fon Spots.
- Bill: (named for Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft): has a Fonera router, shares Wi-Fi, gets free roaming at any Fon Spot, and can get 50% of the net revenues when a visitor purchases a Fon pass at their Fon Spot. (This feature is not currently available any more).
- Alien: does not have a Fonera router and does not share broadband with the rest of the Fon community. Aliens have an active account with Fon, receive community information and access Wi-Fi at Fon Spots by purchasing Fon passes.
A non-member, termed an Alien, is anyone who connects to a Fon Spot but does not share their Internet access at home or other location. This kind of user may purchase daily access passes to use the Fon network.
Access passes can be bought directly from the access point's portal page; it is also possible to register with Fon from that page. Passes can also be pre-purchased and used at a later date. In Spain, Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa and the United States it is also possible to buy passes by sending a text message from a mobile phone.
Hardware and firmware
Fon started using the OpenWrt base as firmware base for Fon branded routers. The firmware has been customised specifically for use in the Fon Community, allowing consumers to share their broadband connection and to connect to other Fon Spots around the world.
Fon developed a number of their own products:
- Gramofon - router with built-in streaming client
- Fonera SIMPL (2014) Wireless Router - lacks the RP-SMA removable antenna connection of the original SIMPL below
- Fonera SIMPL Wireless Router
- Fonera 2.0n Smart WiFi Router
- Fonera 2.0g Smart WiFi Router
- Fonera+ Wireless Router
- Fonera Wireless Router
- Fontenna WiFi Antenna
Fon firmware creates two different Wi-Fi signals: one private and one public.
- Private ('MYPLACE') : encrypted and intended for the owner's private use. Only the Fon Spot owner can access the internal network, computers and files.
- Public ('FON_FREE_INTERNET'): un-encrypted or open, but username and password protected so allowing only registered Fon users to access the Fon Wi-Fi community network, but they cannot access the consumer's private network.
The new 2014 Fonera SIMPL, introduced in February 2014, includes Facebook integration. The owner of the Fonera SIMPL may register their own Facebook account with the device. Once this is done, any user that is a 'Facebook Friend' of the owner is granted access to that Fonera (only).
The 'Fonera Business' is currently in Beta. It intends to take Facebook integration further by offering free WiFi to customers of a business who are asked to 'Like' the Facebook page for the business in order to gain free WiFi access.
Fon claims to have the largest Wi-Fi network in the world, with over 14 million hotspots as at March 2015.
BT Fon Community
BT Group (formerly known as British Telecom) is the first and largest Fon collaboration. On October 4, 2007, Fon and BT announced that they had jointly created the BT Fon Community by flashing Fon's software on all BT Total Broadband Wi-Fi routers in the UK. This allows BT Total Broadband customers to participate in the Fon community without buying a Fonera and in some cases (where the customer has since replaced the BT hardware after creating the BTFon account) without sharing their own WiFi. Since March 2007 BT has supplied it customers with routers that already have Fon software preinstalled and enabled offering an opt out service, although recent changes are seeing the service (along with the BT OpenZone brand) being rebranded to the unified service of BTWiFi.
Fon and SFR (Neuf Cegetel) launched Fon on Wi-Fi routers throughout France. SFR subscribers can opt into Fon to share and receive Wi-Fi services.
NOS wi-fi (formerly ZON@FON)
NOS is the leading cable provider in Portugal, resulting from a merger between ZON Multimedia and Optimus Telecomunicações. Back in 2008, ZON partnered with Fon to create ZON@FON (currently NOS wi-fi), the largest Wi-Fi network in Portugal. Fon technology is built into NOS wi-fi routers so its subscribers become part of the Fon community automatically.
Proximus, Belgium's biggest telecommunications company, joined the Fon network in November 2011. Proximus (then called Belgacom) added Fon's WiFi-sharing technology to its BBox2 modem earlier in 2011, making it possible to broadcast two WiFi signals from a broadband internet source. One signal is encrypted and private. The other signal is public but only accessible via password. Membership is automatically activated (opt-out).
KPN, a large telecomunications company in the Netherlands, joined the Fon network in January 2013. Public launch of the Fon network on KPN modems is expected to be enabled later in 2013. But the roll out has been pushed back to April 2014.
New partnership with Deutsche Telekom announced in March 2013 to take effect later in the year.
MWEB ADSL South Africa
MWEB just announced a partnership with Fon; February 2014. What this means is that MWEB customers that have a Fon enabled router can share their WiFi Bandwidth and also use those of other Fon users in the countries and locations that Fon have partners.
OTE in Greece
In February 2014 Greek telecommunications company OTE and Fon announced a partnership to bring the Fon service to OTE subscribers in Greece.
In Greece, OTE subscribers share 1 Mbit/s of their downstream capacity for the Fon service and earn the right to use the Fon service provided by other OTE subscribers. If a customer has disabled their Fon WiFi signal for 30 days then they lose the right to use the Fon service provided by other OTE subscribers until they enable it again. OTE has announced that the Fon service is built-in in all OTE-provided routers and enabled by default. Subscribers who don't wish to participate can request an opt-out.
On 28 March 2014 the Jersey telecommunications provider JT Global announced a partnership with Fon. The Fon service will be available later in 2014 to JT broadband subscribers which use the company's fibre to the home service.
Telstra in Australia
On 20 May 2014 the Australian telecommunications provider Telstra announced a Fon service to be available in November 2014 called Telstra Wi-Fi. Telstra broadband subscribers will receive free use of WiFi hotspots, to be initially located in the Central Business Districts of Australian state capitals.
However, as at December 2014 Telstra has not offered Fon service to its customers but it has introduced a limited number of free wifi hotspots for use by anyone. These are generally located in the street on Telstra payphones. Telstra has stated that it will introduce a charge-based model for these hotspots early in 2015. On the 30th of June 2015 Telstra's rebranded their 'WiFi Nation' program to Telstra Air which allows home broadband users to share a WIFI signal at home for access to the Telstra Air with Fon network. Users who do not share WIFI signals will eventually be able to purchase access cards to use the Telstra Air with Fon networks.