FON, a small outfit from Spain that’s trying to make free (or at least as close to free as possible) wifi access available worldwide recently got a big boost from the VoIP behemoth that is Skype. Reading more from FON’s blog, it seems not just Skype is bankrolling their operations. Google has a hand in it as well, along with a couple of major venture capital firms.
From what I can get, FON works through bandwidth-sharing, in the same vein as P2P file sharing, although not so much in the technical sense but in the concept of sharing in general. Users with broadband connections at home or in the office would allow FON users to access their connection via wifi, and this basically grants them access to other FON users’ (or FONeros) connections.
Pretty straightforward, and a pretty cool idea too. Right now, their biggest hurdle and what will probably be the main drag to their sudden explosion would be the fact that users would need to do a firmware patch on their Linksys WRT54G routers for them to be able to share their connection to other FON users.
What happens if you don’t have a WRT54G?
You can get one from FON at a pretty good price (US$ 25, because of their deal with Linksys), or wait until they release a software update for the router you use. Granted, development on support for the popular routers can go pretty quickly with a couple of million dollars (or Euros) of Google and Skype money in the bank, but with the plethora of manufacturers and models in the market, it’s still going to take some time until they hit a truly massive scale.
Their initial goal for the year is to have 30,000 FON hotspots, and judging from the rate of new registrations, it should be entirely doable. They only show available spots in Spain and the US right now (anybody want to have the first Philippine FON hotspot?), but this is something definitely worth keeping an eye on.