FON's wireless revolution starts now

FON's wireless revolution starts now

Summary: BT and FON have got together to open up millions of Wi-Fi routers. That's good news for almost everyone

TOPICS: Networking

The deal between BT and FON has all the makings of an event to define an epoch. FON has a simple proposal: make a fraction of your Wi-Fi available as a secure public hotspot, and you get unlimited access to everyone else's Wi-Fi who's doing the same thing. Non-members can also access the FON network, at a price; FON takes care of the billing and you get a cut of the proceeds.

Now BT is saying that all its broadband users can become FON members, just by clicking on "OK". The only difference is that BT takes your cut. If you don't like the sound of that, or aren't a BT subscriber, you can always buy a FON router as before.

At first, it seems that nobody loses. BT gets millions of extra hotspots, a great marketing tool and a much more compelling argument for its converged mobile/Wi-Fi strategy. FON gets the exposure, credibility and critical mass it needs to make the step from slightly eccentric, mildly geeky good idea to being seen as a truly exciting and potentially disruptive core technology. And, as for the users, if you like the idea of free worldwide data and voice access in exchange for hosting occasional passing traffic, alongside blanket Wi-Fi coverage of residential areas, then you can see the attraction already.

But, if it works — there are legitimate questions about coverage, reliability and scalability — then there will be some very big losers. Deservedly so. For years, we've pointed out the iniquity of the cartel pricing on mobile data roaming. It's a true outrage that operators charge tens of pounds per megabyte for a service that costs them nothing extra to provide. That injustice is now made plain: the incremental cost of international data access is so low that FON can do deals that effectively give it away — to the benefit of everyone involved.

This is the start of true peer-to-peer public wireless access. That it involves BT, a hard-nosed commercial entity with a history of giving away nothing but hard times to its customers, is substantial proof of the long-term viability of the idea. That FON has backing from Google is another glimpse of what that new future might bring. It fits perfectly with the spirit of the times, the needs of real people and the capability of our technology to unleash comets on dinosaurs. That sky can't fall soon enough.

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Topic: Networking

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  • Wow - is this the same BT we know and loath?

    This sounds like a very un-BT move - but after the initial shock of the encumbant that everyone loves to hate doing something truly disruptive -you have to say this looks like a really innovative and exciting deal. Not sure whether it will have the scale that we might like it to - but got to applaud BT for the attempt. Not sure the mobile operators will be so impressed ;-) Could knacker 02s attempts to flog the iphone cos if this takes off then the iPhone Touch - with wi-fi only looks like a much better option.
    Andrew Donoghue
  • The BT we know and love

    Yes it is the BT (British Theft) we truly know and love. Notice that while FON shares proceed with its members, BT is keeping those proceeds for itself. Nothing new here!
  • True...

    I guess being innovative and disruptive even if it is motivated by BT's erm "determined commerical attitude" is still being innovative and disruptive. It will be interesting to watch how this grows - or doesn't and if its the latter - then am betting an open organisation like Fon won't have too many qualms about letting us know why.
    Andrew Donoghue