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Fon Terminates Support for Fonera Routers, Fon Community Furious

Martin’s cheerful post yesterday, about yet another router model, didn’t go over well with the Community of worldwide Foneros. Comments were open, so everyone jumped on poor Martin’s case about the previous router models which still aren’t stable, particularly the latest one, which has been abandoned for several months with major issues still pending.

Martin’s blog post is an absolute HOOT to read. The angry, cheated Fonero Community descended upon him, demanding action, and his response was to literally cry and attempt to make Foneros feel guilty that his skeleton staff is overworked. Sorry big boy, the burden of guilt is entirely upon you there!

Martin clearly regards EVERY critic as “a troll” and proposes that Fon is somehow entitled to more compliments. I think it’s clear that he has an idyllic image that he refuses to let go of, and he will not listen to reason and see Fon for what it has become to those of us who actually comprise the Fon Network. This reminds me of the attitude of Fon’s Board moderators, who actually warn people to stop complaining until some more compliments pile up to offset them. Martin lives in such a bubble! He thinks he can manage Fon’s image by simple decree. But he’s just painting posies over his own windows.

Random things we learned about Fon this time:

  • Fon seems to be abandoning the “Fonera” moniker, as the new model is just called “SIMPL. This could be at the request of the still-unnamed telco Fon E-Partner at hand.
  • Fon is still just a spunky lil ole start-up that deserves more time, another chance, please be understanding, etc.
  • The Fon Network has “over a million” “daily users”. Interesting twist of English. He also claims “over a million” “Fon hotspots” but notice he doesn’t distinguish hotspots from users from members. In fact, as usual, he blurs them together whenever possible. In truth, Fon has only a few tens of thousand active Foneros (members/volunteers/contributors), about as many native hotspots (La Foneras), even fewer Aliens (guests/paying customers), and the rest is just partner hotspots being added simultaneously to both “member” and “customer” columns. *See update below.
  • Martin claims 23k “Fonera 2″ have been sold. The way he phrases it, he avoids distinguishing between 2g and 2n models, probably to conceal how few 2n routers were sold.
  • Fon employs less than 40 people now, from a high of around 130. They’re about to double the number of native routers they’ve ever sold, but no word if Fon will hire any more employees on… even while Spain suffers particularly high unemployment.
  • Martin admits that Fon has ceased supporting every previous router model, because their new 400k girlfriend needs all of their attention. And won’t Foneros just understand that and stop bothering them?
  • Despite Fon Boards and Martin Blogs being choked with complaints, Martin exclaims that he’s simply *sure* that most people are delighted with their Foneras, and they’re so happy we simply don’t hear from them!
  • Martin feels that La Fonera 2.0g works “pretty well” and since they also briefly offered discounts to upgrade, that this is good enough “support” for previous router models.
  • Over and over, Martin scolds commenters for their “disrespect” of Fon customer service staff. Except that noone’s complaining about the other staffmembers. This is Martin’s personal blog, after all, and they’re writing DIRECTLY TO HIM. It’s his leadership most of us have problems with. That’s what he’ll never accept.

IMHO, Fon is really stepping backwards to “simpler” routers because Fon has discovered the hard way that they don’t have the brand recognition to unload more expensive gadgets like La Fonera 2.0n. People are more likely to buy a cheapo router from an unknown company (like Fon), than a fancy expensive router. Problem is, this new one is still about $20 too much. Fon has also realized that it can’t construct nor maintain complex firmware, but they’re not going to admit that either.

Fon SIMPL’s sticker model number is 2305E. I expect it’s a re-badge of some other brand, as always. Perhaps in a few months, we’ll find manufacturer’s firmware to slap on this puppy. Check out Steven’s gallery of external photos here.

Anyone going to this “Mobile World Congress” can find more information about the Con, as well as some incorrect information about Fon here. Despite what it says there, Fon didn’t start the wifi revolution, Fon didn’t start with the Fonera wifi router, and Fon didn’t sell La Fonera when it launched in 2006. La Fonera 2.0n is not the most innovative; it’s a poor, faulty copy of routers many others have been selling for a couple of years, Fon is not the largest wifi community, but it contributes slightly to larger “partners” which make a considerable aggregate network. The numbers given about “members” and “hotspots” are blatent lies. Also, Fon forgot to mention one of their partners, McAfee, by which Fon is Safe!

UPDATE: In addition to Martin’s silly comments, see his silly new post in response to the complaints: Fonera 2.0n Quality Survey

*UPDATE2 to bullet point 3 above: According to FrancoFON’s database of the Northern Hemisphere on Feb 17 2010, there are a total of 691,000 active Fon hotspots including partners BT(364k), Neuf(82k) and Livedoor(176k) and 68,000 active La Fonera routers. They find 141,000 inactive La Foneras. A bit of quick research adds Fon partners ZON in Portugal – 100k circa 2/2010, Comstar in Russia – 2,000 circa 12/2009 and E-Plus in Germany for up to 25k circa 6/2009. That leaves 200k hotspots missing, unless we count Fon’s inactive routers, leaving us only 40k short. I know of no way to find out which partner hotspots are also inactive, but it becomes clear that Martin’s “over a million” statement is broad exaggeration. Fon’s contribution comes in at 5th (of 7) place (or 3rd if you unfairly count dead hotspots).

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Consider that Martin stated on Feb 3, 2010 that “It took Fon almost four years to sell half a million WiFi routers known as Foneras.” Since all live, plus dead Foneras only total 209k, this means that 291k Foneras were allegedly sold, but were never registered to Fon!

This picture gets far grimmer if you add “half a million sold” to an additional “15 million worth” of routers which Fon gave away. Fon sold La Fonera v1 routers for as little as $1, but in my mind, Martin would cleverly count that as “sold” and not free.** Only v1 routers were given away. Martin claimed that v1 was sold at practically cost, so at regular price of $29, that means an additional 500k routers were given away, an oddly convenient number. So if Fon has indeed *distributed* a full million routers now, only 209k were ever registered (21%, or 1-in-5) and only 68k remain live (or 3-in-10 of every router registered), which is about 7%, or 1-in-14 of all Foneras ever distributed!

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**It’s also possible that Martin is adding the same numbers into two columns again. He might count the “discounted” routers as both fully “sold”, and also a “fraction” of a free router by attributing part of that $15M to offset the amount of the discount. Warranty replacements probably also get relabeled as “given away” too; they additionally count as increments to Fon’s hotspot network (one dead router + one replacement = two purportedly available hotspots). Frankly, i’m weary of peeking down all the possible rabbit-holes. In this article i’m pretending that Martin’s statements are legitimate. If he’s outsmarted himself with statistical sleight of hand, and made Fon look bad, that’s his fault.

UPDATE3: Martin’s still at it. In his Spanish-only blog now, he whines about how English people are rude, and expresses that he thinks he’s entitled to praise for his “incredible work”, never mind the results. Again, he suggests that his poor staff’s feelings are hurt by any critical feedback (I wonder if this means Iurgi has been threatening to quit? Oh boy!), blind to the fact that the comments were clearly directed just at him. He again unambiguously admits that support for La Fonera 2.0g is terminated. That model was sold as beta for 6 months starting in Oct 2008, sold as “public ready” in April 2009, and the last firmware for it was issued Oct/Nov 2009. This suggests that Martin considers his company’s obligation finished after only about a year.

UPDATE4: A week later, Engadget finally posts their benign and obligatory article about SIMPL. Please visit there and ADD YOUR COMMENTS! Also, visit the online petition to Fon here.

In the event Martin’s blog posts get removed or censored, please check back here for my snapshots.

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