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With FON deal, Boingo aims to expand network

Agreement will give Boingo customers access to FON hot spots in residential areas for no extra cost.
Written by Marguerite Reardon, Contributor
Boingo's Wi-Fi network just got a little bigger, thanks to a deal it's worked out with Spanish start-up FON, which allows people to share their Wi-Fi broadband connections.

Under the new agreement, Boingo's users, who pay a monthly fee to access its more than 60,000 Wi-Fi hot spots around the world, will be able to access FON hot spots, as well.

Boingo Mobile customers, who pay $7.95 per month to get unlimited Wi-Fi access on mobile devices, also get access to the FON network.

FON has developed a Wi-Fi router that allows broadband subscribers to split their Internet connection so it offers a secure connection indoors and an open connection to people outside the home. So far the company says it's set up 130,000 FON hot spots.

While the FON network is tiny compared with Boingo's, it's growing and provides coverage in residential areas. The Boingo network, which is geared toward business users, is focused on offering Wi-Fi coverage in public areas, such as airports, hotels, cafes and metropolitan hot zones.

Unfortunately for FON members, who by sharing their own broadband connection get free access to all other FON Wi-Fi hotspots, the agreement with Boingo is not reciprocal. This means Boingo members can access the FON network as part of their Boingo fee, but FON members who want access to Boingo Wi-Fi hot spots still have to pay the regular fee even though they are sharing their bandwidth. In general, "alien" users, or people who do not have FON routers at home and are not part of the network, pay $2 to $3 a day to access the FON Wi-Fi network.

Still, FON views the deal with Boingo as an important way to get more users using its Wi-Fi network. Last month it signed its first deal with a major U.S. Internet service provider, Time Warner. Through this deal, the cable operator will allow its more than 6.6 million broadband subscribers to sign up for the FON service.

"FON is continuing to attract important partners as it executes its business plan and builds a unique collection of Wi-Fi locations around the globe," Joanna Rees, CEO of FON U.S. said in a statement. "Now, the benefits of the FON network are available to a new audience--business travelers--who get ubiquitous coverage along with Boingo's ease of use benefits."

The Time Warner deal is important for FON because it will alleviate the threat of lawsuits. When FON first launched its service last year, Time Warner was one of many U.S. broadband providers that said the FON Wi-Fi service violated its terms of use by allowing people to share their broadband connections outside their homes.

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