If this were a live FonBar, you would log in to the hotspot through the form above.

BT Halves Wifi Price, Fon Doubles Wifi Price.

October 15, 2008

Coming hot on the heels of Martin Varsavsky’s regretful announcement, that Fon Wifi will soon be doubled from $/€2 per day to $/€4 per day (he needs to visit fon.com more often. It’s actually $/€3 per day now), is this news that BT is cutting the price of wifi at their hotspots by as much as 50%!!!

The new service tiers are called “BT Original”, “BT Openzone Together”, and “BT Openzone Global”. All three tiers provide access to BT Openzone, BT FON and BT Business Total Broadband hotspots. BT Original provides 500 minutes of access, while Together and Global provide “unlimited” access plus 500 minutes of “UK roaming”. BT Global also includes 500 minutes of “international roaming” at other BT partner hotspots like Swisscom Hospitality Services and Comfone’s WeRoam.

If you exceed your 500 minutes in a limited access category, you’ll be billed 10p ($.17) per minute anywhere.

Here are the respective prices for comparison:

Fon Wireless Ltd: €71.02/mo ($91.24) on average at current price
BT Original: €5/mo+VAT ($8.71)
BT Openzone Together: €12.50/mo+VAT ($21.77)
BT Openzone Global: €28/mo+VAT ($48.77)
BT Openzone per Minute: 15p/min+VAT (down from 20p) ($.26)

How prices work out per day including 17.5% UK VAT:

Fon: €2.34 ($3),
BT Original: €.23 ($.40),
Together: €.49 ($.86),
Global: €1.09 ($1.90),
Openzone per Minute: €216.00 ($376.23).
As I reported before, T-Mobile is €.67-€2.00 per day, depending on service plan.

While I can see why residents of England might pay Fon’s current price over the price of BT Openzone per Minute, I do not think they would consider Fon to be competitive against the other BT tiers – also available at BT Fon hotspots – even though Fon includes “worldwide roaming”.

The burning question on my mind is: who would prefer Fon over ANY wifi provider when Fon doubles their price in coming weeks? Will Fon continue to partner with BT when BT Openzone is allready undercutting Fon’s rates at their own hotspots? Will BT continue to partner with Fon after ending their relationship with The Cloud?

Fon Announces New Beta Tester’s Program

October 10, 2008

Those who complained before about Fon’s exclusive, invite-only Beta Testing programs will be happy with the new one. Or maybe not.

Anyone in France, Germany and Spain may join the Beta Tester’s program by purchasing a La Fonera 2.0 “Liberator” in the Fon Shop for €39.95 ($53.92) plus shipping. This new router is just like the 1-WAN 1-LAN La Fonera Plus, but also has an USB port in the back, and an additional LED on the front. Fon hopes you will contribute further to this project by developing support for additional devices, which they will perhaps certify and add to future firmware releases.

It is not clear what devices are currently supported, because if you read Martin Varsavsky’s blog carefully, he is saying that the USB port “could” support devices like USB hard drives and thumb drives, printers, scanners, and webcams. In fact, he admits that support for devices could be slow in coming, and that the use of a powered USB hub is reccommended. That’ll make quite a nest of cables when I winch my La Fonera 2 up on a pole outdoors!

The Fonosferatu “community” of developers has still not been organized, but Fon is certainly still hoping that Foneros will abandon such independant community projects as FreeWLAN and FrancoFon, and come together to work under Martin’s warm, guiding hand. Would you do it for a T-shirt? Martin has provided his wish-list of applications for Foneratus to work on, including the bittorrent application he mentioned when La Fonera 2 was announced back in EARLY JUNE, 2007.

Some things I like about the USB port is the possibility of using it as part of a home security system, when the router is mounted outside with a compatible webcam attached. I have written in the past about how metro wifi projects might like to purchase such routers which can have instrument packages added. This could include traffic monitoring cameras, weather and temperature monitoring, and even gunshot location using microphones and triangulation.

With wifi meshing enabled, city utilities could be measured remotely using devices attached directly to the meters on each home and business. The bandwidth may not be optimal for gaming, but any meter could still be directly interrogated within a few seconds. Energy-saving programs could use this network to shut off unneeded devices and adjust thermostats.

One goal that I think is important to work toward is in developing an USB-over-Ethernet driver, and abandoning development of multiple onboard drivers and services for LF2′s USB port. There are numerous open-source projects like USB Server, which let a PC mount an remote USB port over Ethernet, as though it were physically attached, though that port is elsewhere in the world. This is likely the best way to provide the most compatability and flexibility, while saving LF2′s precious resources for the wifi.

I am absolutely against using technology to further build out the police state many governments are hungry for, but you can see how devices like this can also be owned and used by the citizens for good purposes. For anyone that is interested, tomorrow is an international day of protest against surveillance; “Freedom Not Fear“. Please click the link to find activities in your area.

UPDATE: Only 1000 of these developer’s edition of La Fonera 2 will be sold, but if you’re one of the dozen or so busy Foneros who create an application which Fon actually likes, you could be reimbursed the cost of your router! Have Fon with that.

UPDATE: 10/23 Fon will now accept orders for the remaining La Fonera 2s from any country except Canada.

HAK5 Hacks A La Fonera

October 1, 2008

Today’s HAK5 video podcast features Darren Kitchen doing a demonstration of replacing stock Fon firmware on a FON2100 with Jasager Karma using the Freifunk Ap51 EasyFlash GUI utility.

If you prefer an online tutorial, with plenty of excellent pictures, you can find it here in Kitchen’s blog, or here in the Hack5 forum.

I haven’t followed these steps personally, and haven’t used some of the helper tools, but everything looks ok after brief inspection. Use at your own risk.

As usual, i’m VERY amused at all of the references to some kind of device called “a FON”, and still don’t understand how a young, four-legged ruminant is involved, but then noone ever listens to me. 😉

Meeting Ex-Foneros

September 29, 2008

or “I See Dead Foneros”

This is a digest of the thread I started in Fon’s English Board.

There are about 102 Fon hotspots within the Austin, TX metro area. I recently noticed that nearly every Fon hotspot in the south side of the city is now dead, so on Saturday, 9/20 I took a bike tour of dead hotspots to see if I could lend some assistance, or aquire some unwanted routers:

(Click image for full size popup)

I really wanted to do this earlier, but it has been an unbearably hot summer in ATX. I made it a priority when I saw the sudden loss of so many hotspots at once. There is another cluster of dead hotspots I could visit across the freeway East of me, but those are mostly apartments with transient students. Probably not worth the effort. I did not bring a laptop or wifi detector with me. Perhaps I will survey the remaining live hotspots another time.

Half of the hotspot profiles from Fon’s Maps displayed “kasdfgdflkasdf” addresses, or had valid addresses which should not have placed them on this side of town. These were skipped, of course.

Two hotspots were at apartment buildings, and one person was not at home, but I left fliers for them to contact me. The apartment dwellers hadn’t actually indicated their door numbers, so I left the fliers on public bulletin boards. They haven’t gotten in touch with me in 7 days, so I don’t think they ever will.

I did meet 3 very nice people, and had chats with them about Fon. All of the Foneros needed a moment to remember what “a Fon hotspot” was when I asked them about it. I let them know immediately that I was not a Company Representative, just a neighbor. This made them visibly less apprehensive. 😀

My closest Fonero neighbor never used wifi, but had left her router plugged in. She didn’t know it was dead. It needed to be reset, and the hotspot came back on the map. Today, I noticed that her hotspot is dead again, and it’s position on the map has been moved well away from her house. Her address has also been erased from the profile. It appears that she doesn’t want to meet any more Foneros. 🙁

One man said that he unplugged his router because no Aliens ever visited it, and his girlfriend no longer needed it for her laptop. He said it was now in storage, but he would consider passing it on if he found it. He also believed that it was causing some kind of conflict with his LAN, but wasn’t able to recall further details. They now have a U-Verse DSL modem with integrated wifi.

The other man said that someone was leeching so much bandwidth from him, that he had to pull the cord. He had forgotten where the router was, if he still had it, but promised to pass it on if it turned up.

The two men who intentionally quit had totally opposite reasons; hotspot used too much / hotspot not visited at all, so i’m not sure what facts i’ve nailed down for the purposes of my brief investigation. Overall, Foneros simply lose interest in Fon and can quit without feeling like they have lost anything. Nor are there any consequences – in fact, they may feel more secure with the Fon hotspot shut down.

Fon still counts them as active members, unless they email unsubscribe@fon.com, of course. Fon makes money selling merchandise and has a small side business reselling access to other people’s ISP service. I suspect Fon rarely, if ever, refunds money or subtracts dead hotspots and quitted members from their census, so there is little consequence for them, either.

I left everyone my name, phone number and email address. Interestingly, all three of the people I met happened to be DSL customers, and used Macintoshes.

So here’s the results of my investigation:

  • Total Fon hotspots in Austin, TX: about 102 (per Yoshida’s Fon Map)
  • Total active Fon hotspots in ATX: about 14 (per Fon Maps 9/28)
  • Fon hotspots visited: 6
  • Foneros met: 3
  • Assistance provided: 1
  • Routers aquired: 0
  • Net Foneros reactivated: 0

I’ve tried messaging Foneros through the Fon Maps feature, but this does no good because it is not forwarded to their email. It just goes to their “My Fon” bulletin board, which they never see if they have given up on Fon and never log in again.

I’m not sure where to take this forward from here. I could ask my readers what Fon could do to win Foneros back, but why should Fon bother? Fon has their clever numbers, and reserve the right to invent clever definitions. Fon has been maintaining convienient untruths, and probably don’t have the initiative to come clean now. Besides, with Fon in their spam-filters, or free email addresses abandoned, dead Foneros will never receive another ping from the Movement they left behind. The Press won’t even touch Fon now.

I could ask what Foneros could do to win Foneros back, but I don’t want to encourage a gestapo movement, knocking on doors and demanding explanations. I don’t think anyone was upset that I visited them, but there was a moment each time, where I thought I saw them thinking “oh no, I was afraid this would happen”. Noone was interested in rejoining the scene. They were polite, but pointedly disengaged from the subject. The routers were “somewhere, perhaps”, but while noone wanted to use them, neither did they wish to release them.

Possibly, leaders in various cities could publicise campaigns to collect unwanted routers for redistribution, but again, Fon dare not admit that they have any churn or waning momentum. I will redistribute any routers I may eventually collect, but I don’t have the resources to start or maintain anything formal. Perhaps if it was a paid position, I could make it a part-time job on the weekends, eh? 😉

I look forward to your comments.

T-Mobile UK Launches Mobile Broadband @ £.67/day!

September 21, 2008

This is a new option to join T-Mobile’s “Mobile Broadband Max” cellular data plan, available wherever T-Mobile reception is found in the UK. You can use up to 3GB/month of bandwidth before T-Mobile throttles you, or contacts you about adjusting your plan. It also includes unlimited access at T-Mobile Wifi Hotspots. Skype and other VOIP calls are permitted using the service.

You can pay £2/day or prepay for a month and surf the web for as little as £.67/day! Compare to Fon Wifi at €3/day. Access is provided by using compatible T-Mobile handsets as a modem, or a USB modem/memory stick costing £49.99.

T-Mobile says a contract is not necessary, but mentions 12-24 month contracts, credit checks, and 30-day cancellation requirements. It’s possible this is simply a try-before-contract deal, but the rates are almost the same under contract.

This is a compelling alternative to Fon and other for-pay wifi providers. Though there may be an up-front cost for the modem, the daily usage fees are far lower, and service availability is guaranteed much higher.

It would be wonderful to have this in the USA. I would not hesitate to join a service like this, to have the freedom to bike out on the trails with my laptop, headset and modem. I’d do a little telecommuting work while sitting under a cedar tree on a cliff top overlooking the river valley. Our beautiful Barton Creek area is surrounded by upscale homes, so cellular reception there is excellent. Of course, i’d experiment with ways to boost my signal, just for the geeky fun of it. 😉

As my eyes rest upon my shelf full of blinking Fon merchandise, I am wondering what Fon will do to respond to this new service? Lower their rates? A new Fon E-Partnership with T-Mobile or AT&T?

I’ve also had my eye on the Fon hotspots in my city. Since I last checked, most of them have gone dead! I’ve been visiting my closest Fonero neighbors and learning why this is. I will blog about this in the near future.

Update: Thanks b250, for pointing out that I used € where actually £ is indicated.

A Million Times, NO.

September 11, 2008

I could have guessed this was coming on September 8th, when Fon’s English board moderator, David Garcia started using this graphic in his signature line.

It seems that Fon Wireless, LTD., who forgot to observe their own second birthday, is celebrating the induction of their One Millionth Fonero, Wilkinson-Chan of Japan.

Today, Fon CEO Martin Varsavsky’s blog, and Fon’s own English blog announced that Fon now has one million “Foneros”, “members” or “community members”, depending on whether you read the title or the text of the posts.

Oddly, Martin claims that Fon has “nearly 300,000” active Fon hotspots, while Fon’s blog says “over 400,000”. I’ve taken screen shots gentlemen, so there’s no point in covering your tracks now. 😉

So why am I a skeptic? It’s those numbers. They just don’t add up the way they ought to. Let’s review Fon Math again, and take note of authoritative sources of Fon definitions.

One Million Foneros. One Million Members. OK, all Foneros are members, and all members are Foneros, this is true. “Community Members” is perhaps a broader term; it could include forum posters who have not registered as an Alien nor Fonero, and this inclusion raises my eyebrows.

The first step to joining Fon is to register your email address and choose a password. This can be done at a Fon hotspot, or on Fon’s home page. This makes you an Alien, who can pay for wifi access, or use your registered identity to order Fon merchandise.

Martin Varsavsky says that once an Alien registers and contributes a Fon hotspot, he becomes a Linus or Bill Fonero, who can roam for free on other Fonero’s hotspots worldwide. (Also, he says that we must buy his La Fonera router to provide that hotspot.) This means that the number of Foneros, or members, cannot be larger than the number of Fon hotspots ever registered.

In fact, it will always be less, because some Foneros host more than one hotspot, and a very small number of discouraged Foneros will go to the trouble of unsubscribing from Fon via the formal, manual process. Here we have a problem, since Fon and Martin are saying now that the number of Foneros is far larger than the number of Fon hotspots.

So what is *not* a member? Martin Varsavsky has been quoted repeatedly and unambiguously, stating that Aliens are not members, and therefore, not Foneros. Here we have another problem, if it is true that 1,000,000 Fonero members, which does not include Aliens, have somehow joined Fon when there are only 300K-400K hotspots.

Please, Fon. It is time to turn off the reality distortion field. We know you are including Aliens in these counts, and this includes every bogus email address entered at a Fon hotspot to get 15 free trial minutes. We know that Fon is not free, just because it offers a brief trial connection, and roaming for contributing members. We know that more Fon hotspots have been registered, and been dead for months or years, than there remain live ones. And we know this still doesn’t even total a million.

September Feature Article: FrancoFON

September 1, 2008

Fans of FreeWLAN, will take an interest in FrancoFON. Both of these projects have designed firmware plugins, which improve Fon’s La Fonera v1.x wifi router firmware. They impliment features that Fon stripped out of open-source OpenWRT, or enhance existing features.

Here are the highlights of the current version 2.23.6:

  • Antenna power tuning
  • Better firewall
  • Blacklist for sites that may never be visited from public network
  • Configuration can be backed up and restored
  • Diagnostic windows allowing to run command on La Fonera directly from admin console.
  • Display last version available. (in red if version is not up to date)
  • DNS modifications
  • DynDNS management.
  • Firmware Can be upgraded from an alternative server
  • Hosts file management
  • Internet feed may be aquired in wifi client (ponte2) mode instead of from Ethernet port, relay it as Fon hotspot
  • Local user management
  • MAC addresses may be banned from public and private network, with scheduler.
  • Multiple languages; English, French and Roman
  • Port forwarding wizard
  • PPPoE password now permits @ and / characters, up to length of 64 characters
  • Private network SSID can be hidden
  • Private signal still present in ponte2 mode
  • Real time display for private and public connections.
  • Real Time display of status and ID of connected Foneros.
  • Reboot/connection notification by mail
  • Remote reboot
  • Reserve address on private network (static DNS?)
  • Router may be given a name (hostname?)
  • Router SSH administration may be enabled/disabled
  • Router web administration via Ethernet port may be enabled/disabled.
  • Time-zone Configuration
  • Whitelist for sites that may always be visited from public network (without logging in)

This is very similar to the feature-set of FreeWLAN. Both projects support multiple languages, but if you are interested in joining development, speakers of German may prefer FreeWLAN, while speakers of French may prefer FrancoFON.

Though this edition dates from May 15, 2008, FrancoFON is back from holiday with the September Newsletter, and have plans to enhance the La Fonera Plus/2 router next!

New WiFi Roaming Protocol Established

August 30, 2008

This is great news for wifi networks which, until now, would drop connections when guests moved from AP to AP. This is especially good for those who use wifi VOIP handsets, since it promises to provide a seamless handoff from AP to AP just like the cellular phone network does!

Called 802.11r, or “Fast Basic Service Set Transition” (catchy, huh?), it is the result of four years of research and testing. The IEEE feels that it’s ready for the public, and they approved the standard July 15th.

My educated guess is that this standard could be added to many existing wifi routers, APs and client adapters via software update. Let’s all let Fon know that we need this added to the OpenWRT/Fon hotspot firmware! It would be wonderful to be able to stroll around in zones where Fon and/or their partner networks have lots of hotspots, and enjoy unbroken wifi connections, voice calls and instant messages.

How does it work? I don’t know yet. However, it would seem likely that there must be a background infrastructure where a client’s connection is proxied upstream, and so wifi APs downstream are slaved to a central controller. This isn’t too new of an idea, but ratifying a standard is an important, big step in making this widely compatible. Hopefully, it can serve legacy wifi clients at the same time, and is also compatible with wifi encryption.

This brings Fon’s original dream back into range; Fon was originally concieved of as a FonSpot/JoikuSpot type software application running on PCs, and later, as a hardware router running customized firmware (Linksys), which provided wifi for VOIP handsets. This would function much like today’s femtocells, only it would challenge the telco monopolies by providing cheap calls over wifi. Wifi for other devices was merely a potential side benefeit, and there was no emphasis on “revolutions”, “communities” or selling day passes.

A combination of 802.11r plus a transparent SIP proxy would permit many people to share the same wifi connection for VOIP calls. Currently, SIP would not work at a Fon hotspot for incoming calls, without port forwarding. The consequence of that would likely be to block anyone else from using SIP at the same hotspot.

Read more at VoIP Watch, PC World, and The Wireless Weblog.

Fon E-Partnership turns cellphones into hotspots

August 8, 2008

Today Fon and JoikuSoft announce their collaboration in a software addon for Symbian phones, called “JoikuSpot”. You can buy it in their JoikuShop at an introductory price of €15. It uses 3G or GPRS as your Internet backhaul (WAN), and built-in wifi for the hotspot (possibly in peer-to-peer mode instead of AP mode), so you too can share your bandwidth wherever you go!

My first thought, of course, is how this is excellent news for homeless Bills who have been encumbered by the extra weight of a La Fonera router, cables, and battery packs. Now, when they sell wifi at the train station, they only need to carry a single device with them! Hopefully, Fon can partner with a major cellco and negotiate a discount on their unlimited data plans for this charitable purpose.

JoikuSpot supports the following cellphone models (with an appropriate carrier, “unlimited” high speed data plan providing 3G/GPRS, and carrier provisioning to enable wifi on the phone):

  • Samsung i550 and G810,
  • Nokia E51, E60, E61, E61i, E65, E66, E70, E71, E90, N77, N78, N80, N81, N81 8GB, N82, N91, N93, N93i, N95, N95 8GB, N95 8GB Americas, and N95 Americas.

JoikuSpot Premium also includes a VPN client to secure your connection to a home or corporate VPN server. JoikuSpot Premium does not force visitors to a default landing page, and is also 100% customizable for operator whitelabeling and licencing.

More information here:
Joikusoft and FON work together
Joikusoft and FON Unveil Wi-Fi HotSpot Software
Joikusoft and FON unveil Wi-Fi HotSpot software
Joiku, FON to offer premium mobile hotspot software
FON and JoikuSoft Introduce FonSpot Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot Software

Fon Hotspot without La Fonera hardware.

July 24, 2008

First, let’s be honest here. Fon really, really really wants you to buy a La Fonera. $20+ shipping for La Fonera 1, or $50+ shipping for La Fonera Plus, with only one LAN Ethernet jack. Fon no longer sells Linksys WRT54GL routers, and they’ve hidden the download links for the firmware necessary to “bring your own” hardware. But for the time being, that firmware is still downloadable, and so you can use your own Linksys and Buffalo brand routers.

Update: Fon has terminated their original downloads page. The links below to FonBasic and FonAdvanced still work as of 02/28/2015. The Macintosh and Ubuntu versions are now hosted by me. They’re open source products, so any take-down demands can kiss my ass. Joiku jettisoned their Fon e-partnership at the end of 2012, so that’s gone.

This firmware does not have the double-SSID feature, and other privileges might be withheld from such Fonero accounts by Fon. You may not be able to operate as a Bill Fonero (who makes money). Your hotspot contribution to Fon may not be rewarded with free roaming like everyone else. You may not be able to even register your hotspot to your Fonero account. Fon will probably continue to accept registrations of new Aliens, provide “free” trial connections, and sell wifi access at these spots. Great deal, eh?

The trick seems to lie partly in what WLAN MAC address your firmware sends back to Fon in it’s heartbeat. If it is not in the block assigned to the La Foneras which Fon sells, then you’re simply treated differently. While the formerly-official firmwares listed here are unable to clone that WLAN MAC, a little manual tweaking may fix that. There is also an encryption key which must be generated by an application installed in La Fonera firmware, but this can be provided for you by a friend.

Below are the links to download the firmware, please select the version for your router model.

FonBasic is based upon OpenWRT, and FonAdvanced is based upon DD-WRT firmware. There were also several builds of DD-WRT made with an auto-configure button in the onboard admin pages, which essentially turned it into FonAdvanced. The latest builds may still be configured for Fon by following the tutorial linked at the end of this page.

– Download FONbasic Linksys WRT54G / WRT54GL
– Download FONbasic Linksys WRT54GSv1-v3
– Download FONbasic Linksys WRT54GSv4

– Download FONbasic Buffalo WZR-RS-G54 / WHR-G54S / HP-G54

Here is the generic installation guide for the Linksys/Buffalo firmwares above: GUIDE.

– Download FONAdvanced Linksys WRT54GL / WRT54Gv3

There are several other options available for Foneros who are familiar with Linux or Macintosh OSX operating systems. These allow you to offer your own Fon hotspot, using an existing PC or Macintosh running an Intel processor. Each device needs both an Ethernet connection for the Internet feed, and a working WiFi adapter to transmit the Fon hotspot in peer-to-peer mode. You might also be able to tweak the system, and instead use two Ethernet adapters, with a simple WiFi AP connected to one of them. This would even make it possible to make your Fon hotspot capable of 802.11n!

– Download FonSpot for Macintosh OSX Tiger
– Download FonSpot for Macintosh OSX Leopard

– Download FonSpot for Ubuntu Linux

To install the Linux Fonspot, follow these steps:
1) log into your Ubuntu PC via SSH as root
2) cd /tmp
3) wget


Please note the above gzipped file contains a double-tarred file. It’s not corrupted! The inner tar file has no file extension. Please adjust the command on the next line as necessary. I’m leaving it unfixed so that it is the genuine file distributed by Fon.

4) tar zxvf fon_linuxspot_beta0.2_es.tar.gz -C /
5) > fonspot

You will need to either launch Linux Fonspot manually, each time you boot up, or manually add it to your startup script.

There is also FonJoikuSpot, which is a Fon-themed skin for Joiku’s JoikuSpot application which runs on a number of Samsung and Nokia phones. In original press releases, this was unwisely called “FonSpot” which re-uses the name of the Mac/Ubuntu FonSpot product above.

– Purchase FonJoikuSpot

Let me know if any of these firmwares can no longer be downloaded, since I don’t check them often. Do I have copies of all of this software? You betcha. When Fon finally yanks their own copies down, i’ll put up rapidshare or bittorrent links. ;)

Finally, it is realistically possible to make a fully Fon-compatible hotspot using any PC or router running Linux-type operating systems, if there is also a version of Chilispot or Coovachili which works on it. Fon’s router firmware is a stripped-down edition of OpenWRT, so any router which runs this is an excellent candidate, even if you don’t use OpenWRT itself.

For example, this tutorial will instruct you to set up a Fon hotspot on any router running the latest DD-WRT firmware, including cloning a MAC address which Fon likes, and setting up the “Fon heartbeat” so that your device appears on their maps.