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Fon Terminates Support for Fonera Routers, Fon Community Furious

February 13, 2010

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).

(Click image for full-sized popup)

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!

(Click image for full-sized popup)

**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.


Fon Flirts With Fonera FonPod Outdoor Router

December 15, 2008

Note: I meant to post this over the weekend, but I had to wait for issues with my bloghost to clear up.

After three years of intense demand, Fon CEO Martin Varsavsky is featuring a no-promises, not-in-production weatherized Fonera in his blog. This is perhaps out of envy for Meraki’s recent publicity for their tiny meshing APs and rugged solar-powered routers.

Here is Fon’s current concept of an outdoor wifi appliance:

[Click Us]

This device does not currently have an official name, but I like to call it “Fonera FonPod”. Isn’t that catchy? 🙂

I’m not wild about the design of this enclosure as presented. It’s a flattened box, about 50% larger than La Fonera 2. It seems large enough to house a flat-panel antenna, but that does not appear to be what Fon has in mind. The box splits vertically into front and back halves, and is held together with 10 visible screws. The front would appear to be white plastic with a honeycomb pattern which we have never seen associated with Fon until now. It’s probably another company’s production model with a “Fon” sticker pasted to the front. 😉

The top of the case has an antenna jack, and the bottom appears to have a compression port for admitting cables through an airtight seal. This would make FonPod the first Fonera which has the antenna opposite the cables. All previous models have had jacks and antennas together along the rear, making installation anywhere but a table or shelf awkward. Suprisingly, the rear of the enclosure appears to have three additional connections for WAN, LAN(!) and Power. These connections don’t appear to be weather-resistant, and if these are on the rear, the bottom connection becomes a mystery.

The appearance of LAN suggests that the Fonera inside is based on the Plus or 2.0 models. While a LAN jack would seem pointless for a device that will be installed in remote places, it might be useful for passing an Ethernet connection through to additional equipment, like another AP or a networked security camera. Availability of a USB jack would be useful for similar reasons, and probably enable the use of much cheaper hardware. I’ve been advocating the marketing of Fon routers to metro wifi and building managements for this reason. A simple instrument package could be plugged into such extra ports to provide traffic cams, triangulate gunshots and report weather and smog conditions. That added value could make Fon more attractive than Meraki for some large and wealthy markets.

Bear in mind that the device Fon proposes is still a router, not an access point. This is sort of overkill for the kind of work it will be doing. Let us pray that the LAN port is finally bridged, instead of senselessly NAT’ted. Fon would benefeit by outgrowing their tendancy to repurpose existing products by merely rewrapping them.

[Click Me]

The back of the case has some exposed mounting studs, apparently used to attach the hardware within, and the backplate dips up and down along the seam where other screws ring the perimeter. It would seem that the halves are clamped around a very large, vertically aligned gasket, and the plastic half is rather soft. Those screws are going to rust very quickly, and that sort of gasket is just not practical for long, leakproof life. There appears to be some mounting hardware inside the shipping box, but it is hard to tell whether FonPod must be attached to a pipe, a flat surface, or either. Since there is a (?)7dbi omnidirectional dipole antenna included, this mounting hardware probably does not provide pivoting azimuth for pointing a directional antenna.

I’d like to take a crack at designing a better enclosure, so here are some of my thoughts. For some of my inspiration, see the below photos of an actual ClearWire wireless broadband device deployed in markets like nearby Corpus Christi TX. Only twice the size of La Fonera 2, it is based on technology similar to WiMax, which will soon replace it. This particular device isn’t for outdoors, but rather sits vertically on a desk or shelf with one side facing the ClearWire tower. It integrates a large flatpanel antenna with a network device in the same package, and the case is basically a deep sleeve into which the electronics slide from below. If it was possible to seal this and make all connections through the bottom, it would make a decent outdoor enclosure.

[Click Us]


My concept of Fonera FonPod is an enclosure designed to resemble a 2x scale La Fonera Plus. It has an internal flatpanel antenna like Fontenna, and ships with Power over Ethernet (PoE) adapters. The mounting bracket should permit installation upon either vertical wall or pole, and feature adjustable angle of elevation. The case should be manufactured as a seamless PVC shell with the bottom having the only opening, through a recessed partition.

The partition would have a fitting to allow passage of 1-2 cables through a seal. The partition would have a gasket around it’s perimeter, and would have a framework mounted to it’s inner side. All internal components would be mounted to that framework so that they all slide in and out as though in a drawer.

[Click Us]

A standard La Fonera 1/+/2 would simply be inserted inside and attached to internal cables.

An optional kit would consist of a holder for a dozen or so standard rechargeable batteries, and include a simple voltage regulator, so that Fonera FonPod might be powered by sun or wind.

FonPod II, which might be a WiMax FonPod, would look nearly identical, but the flat panel antenna would be aimed at the WiMax base station and there would be a dipole wifi antenna pointing down from the bottom, or there could be a second flat panel antenna connected with a cable.

So, what do you folks think? Add your comments below, and feel welcome to include links to pics or diagrams of your own.


La Naked Fontenna

July 6, 2007

My foreign correspondant sent me pictures of the inside of La Fontenna today. The plastic case is sealed somehow without glue, so it is probably done ultrasonicaly. This one was opened with a small electric craft saw.

The antenna inside is simply a cheap printed circuit board suspended over a thin metal reflector. I doubt the La Fontenna is priced fairly at $20.00 + shipping (but perhaps not so bad at $2 + $5 shipping).

CLICK ANY PICTURE TO SEE FULL-SIZE


Join the Beta Testers Team!

June 7, 2007

Apply quickly to be a member of Fon’s Beta Testers Program. Email Fon at beta@fon.com by June 10, 2007. If you are chosen, you’ll have “access” to Fon’s new products and be able to test them before they are available to the public!

  • Candidates must be 18+ years old,
  • read and write passable English,
  • have been an active, registered Fonero for 6+ months,
  • have installed and maintaned a La Fonera for at least 4 months,
  • and live in a select list of countries (including the USA).

Whisher is also seeking Beta Testers for the new Whisher 2.0 client, and they are upping the ante with prizes! They have two Linksys WRT300N Wireless-N routers with matching WUSB300 Wireless-N USB adapters. One prize will be given to a randomly-selected participant, and the another given to the most active tester. Email Whisher at beta@whisher.com. Please include a brief description of your experience and equipment to help them evaluate your application.

  • Candidates must be reasonably familiar with wifi technology and networking concepts,
  • have at least one laptop, PC or Mac that is wireless equipped,
  • have at least one wifi router and the ability to manage it, and
  • have the time to test Whisher’s new client and report dutifully in Whisher’s online bugtracker.

If chosen, you’ll also have access to a private area of the Whisher Forums.


La Fontenna is Now Shipping [UPDATED]

June 5, 2007

UPDATE: The Fontenna is not yet available in the Fon Shop, but is being offered in advance via promotional codes to specific Foneros. Read on for more details, and see technical specs added at the end:

Fon’s own signal range-booster, the “La Fontenna”, is being offered to Foneros in a handful of countries begining today. Promoted by Fon President Martin Varsavsky as a superior alternative to mesh network technology, this rectangular plastic enclosure has a cable 3 meters in length, and can be placed up high, or on a window for improved coverage.

We don’t have word from anyone who has recieved one yet, but what is likely inside is an etched-PCB antenna like this:

Varsavsky describes the range boost to be an additional several hundred feet, to almost 1.5 miles!

Some unanswered questions remain, about how much signal loss results from the long pigtail cable, and what radiation pattern this antenna will create. Varsavsky omits the fact that the resulting hotspot will be shaped more like a focused beam, and not a circular hotspot like the original omnidirectional antenna creates. In order to establish a wifi connection from 1.5 miles, one probably needs a similar high-gain antenna pointing directly back at the AP, and to be positioned somewhere along the beam itself.

Free Fontennas

As discussed in Fon’s English-language discussion board, if you purchased a La Fonera at full price and have attracted 3 or more other Foneros (Aliens ) to connect to it (or purchase through it ), you may have allready recieved an email from Fon with a promotional code good for a free Fontenna. Shipping is free in select countries.

Please give us your comments if you aquire one of these Fontennas, and tell us how well it performs for you!

Fon has built a web page describing the merits of the La Fontenna. Click below to read on:

Technical specifications:
Frequency Range: 2400 MHz 2500 MHz
Antenna gain-without cable: 7 dBi
Antenna gain-with cable: 6.5 dBi
VSWR 2.0: 1 Max.
Polarization: Linear, vertical
Impedance: 50 O
Temperature: -10 C to +55 C
Connector: R/P SMA PLUG
Cable: ULA168,L = 3M


Advance Pix of La Fonera 2.0

June 4, 2007

The bright folks at Engadget.com report that the FCC has recieved registration of Fon’s newest router, the La Fonera 2.0, AKA “The Fon Liberator”. They report that the USB jack appears in only some of the photos and is not mentioned in the documentation they saw.

This appears to be based on the same new hardware as the La Fonera Plus (AKA v1.5). This is arranged differently and is larger than the original v1.0 and v1.1 La Fonera, which was apparently a rebranded Accton MR3201A .pfd link. If anyone knows which product Fon is now rebranding, please comment below!

The question is, since we know this model is coming soon, is superior to the new La Fonera Plus (AKA v1.5) discussed in the last post, and Fon’s 802.11n router is expected at the end of the year (or more likely, fasionably late in early 2008, like all Fon releases), why should we buy the La Fonera Plus (AKA v1.5)? Can you say “Osbourne Effect;)


Advance Pix of La Fonera 1.5

May 30, 2007

No technical details are available at this time, but photos of the upcoming La Fonera 1.5 (AKA “La Fonera Plus”) have come to light. It is somewhat bigger than the La Fonera 1.0 and has an additional Ethernet jack for a LAN connection. The same 4db antenna is provided, so this won’t cut into sales of the Fontenna. 😉

It doesn’t look like any attention was spent on improving air circulation. The new device will obviously be heavier, so the chances of securely attaching it to a window with a double sided suction cup is diminishing. If it turns out to have PoE built in (fat chance), i’ll buy one myself at full price. 😉

Click picture for full size Image. La Fonera 1.5 compared to La Fonera 1.0.

Click picture for full size Image. La Fonera 1.5 compared to La Fonera 1.0.

UPDATE: To our suprise, the La Fonera 1.5/plus does not appear to be based on the Accton MR3202A Mini Router .pdf link. The La Fonera 1.0 is clearly a rebranded MR3201A .pdf link. Accton still has these data sheets for these products, but no longer features them on their Products page. Perhaps Fon bought the 1.0 model at steep discount because of pending discontinuation. Let us know if you’ve found another product that Fon has likely rebranded as the 1.5. This will provide us with operating specs that Fon will never give us willingly. 😉


WiF Podcast #2

April 9, 2007

Mike, Dan and Chad

We’re back!

Dan Berte of http://www.wirelessisfun.com/ has edited our 3 hours of recorded ramblings into several bite-sized segments. Dan and I were joined by Mike Puchol of tech.am blog, who is also a founder and CTO of http://www.whisher.com/. We’re demonstrating our rapidly improving style, so look out, http://www.kenradio.com/!

Download segments at: http://wirelessisfun.com/2007/04/09/wif-podcast-2/

SHOW NOTES:

Court rules Vonage must stop using Verizon patents.Vonage claims it has long prepared for this, and customers have no fear of service termination. Mike Snyder, Vonage’s chief executive officer says “Friday’s events represented one small step in what is sure to be a long legal battle.” Vonage, whose shares fell nearly 26% on Friday, also said the litigation would likely take years, but added that it was confident it would continue to provide service to its over 2.2 million subscribers. Will they license from Verizon? Will they patch their code? Is this death for Vonage?
http://gigaom.com/2007/03/23/vonage-has-to-stop-using-verizon-patents/
http://andyabramson.blogs.com/voipwatch/2007/03/the_v_battle.html

EarthLink Unveils Wi-Fi VoIP Phone with wifi router built into base…

This appears to be the same “FON Router with Skype Handset” from July, 2006.
http://wifinetnews.com/archives/007493.html
http://andyabramson.blogs.com/voipwatch/2007/03/earthlink_wifi_.html
http://blog.fon.com/en/archive/gadgets/fon-router-with-skype-handset.html

Fon Blog and Martin Varsavsky release early details of their upcoming “Fontenna”

This will be an external, cable-tethered 7db box.
http://blog.fon.com/en/archive/gadgets/fontenna-update.html
http://english.martinvarsavsky.net/fon/the-secret-is-in-the-fontennas.html

Fon suggests again that their partnership with McAfee makes their product safe.

Deja Vu from Dec 12 last year…
http://blog.fon.com/en/archive//fon-mcafee.html
http://www.mymcafee.com/Partner.aspx
http://english.martinvarsavsky.net/fon/is-fon-safe.html
http://elfonblog.fondoo.net/?p=43

Fon releases firmware upgrades for VOIP phones

They can now log in to Fon hotspots. Is the problem solved? Listener feedback encouraged.
http://wirelessisfun.com/2007/03/23/brief-on-fon/
http://www.fon.com/en/info/whatsNew

Another Fon issue fixed by Apple Computer-

Airport Extreme patch makes it easier to connect to La Fonera now.
http://fonblog.wordpress.com/2007/03/26/mac-osx-patch-for-airport-to-solve-fonera-wpa-issue/
http://wsidecar.apple.com/cgi-bin/nph-reg3rdpty2.pl/product=13259&cat=1&platform=osx&method=sa/AirPortExtremeUpdate2007002.dmg

Melting La Fonera APs…

The infamous YouTube video is probably a hoax, but an expert analysis by Mike Puchol suggests that the electronics may last no more than a year due to heat stress.
http://tech.am/2007/03/17/fonera-overheating-are-we-cooking-yet/
http://wirelessisfun.com/2007/03/19/la-fonera-to-die-in-one-year/

Fon’s upcoming La Fonera 1.5 will have a LAN port

Probably to be based on the slightly better Accton MR3202A 2 Port Mini Router. Since La Foneras have a 2 year warantee, this could mean a free upgrade when the 1.0 fries.
http://tech.am/2007/02/26/new-routers-with-lan-and-usb-ports-but-not-by-fon/
http://www.accton.com/products/product_range/21_weap/MR3202A.htm

Fon will have a Wi-Max/WiFi AP in the future.

La Fonera x will use Wi-Max service instead of Cable/DSL modem.
http://wirelessisfun.com/2007/03/20/fon-wifi-operator-planning-to-deploy-wimax/
http://elfonblog.fondoo.net/?p=19
http://english.martinvarsavsky.net/fon/wimax-and-fon.html

Ericsson halts Wi-Max technology in favor of 3G.

Now only Intel makes the chips.
http://www.wireless-weblog.com/50226711/ericsson_says_goodbye_to_wimax.php

Whisher releases new Mac and Linux clients.

Linux client offers intrim solution to exposed Wi-Fi encryption keys.
http://blog.whisher.com/2007/03/22/linux-version-of-whisher-released/