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

Does Fon Charge UK VAT to Americans?

February 9, 2013

Well, Fon’s 7th birthday was on the 6th of February (counting from their official launch date in 2006), and to my surprise, they’re still in business! Still selling 3rd rate, re-badged, proprietary hardware to fools who hoped to make some wifi money. These poor fools have *purchased* routers which they now must use to provide free service to all of Fon’s e-partners! That’s why anyone partners with Fon; free advertising for a sketchy hardware vendor, free wifi for their customers.

The POI downloads have been promised to “be right back” for two years now. Understandably, since the POI was an excellent vector to track the growing distance between reality and Fon’s official hotspot and membership stats. The original boards.fon.com was removed and replaced with the sanitized forums.fon.com. I popped in there to get up to date on the POI issue. All the names are different, but the new board is full of the same frustration and complaint as the old one. The forum’s a hole to waste people’s efforts, folks! I didn’t find out who the moderator was or who the current pro-Fon troll-who-could-not-be-banned was.

I’ve decided to dip into the old history bag and resurrect a post I’d earlier discarded. This is an email exchange between myself and Fon “customer care”. Always beware when they replace the word “service” with “care”.

It had been my observation that, like the UK region, Foneros in the USA were only getting around one third of the money from sales at their hotspots, and nowhere near 50%. Fon swears they split the profit 50/50. Now, in the UK there is the Value Added Tax to deal with. This doesn’t apply to the USA, so why weren’t we getting a larger percentage? Worse yet, Fon hotspots in the USA only charged $3, which is considerably less than €3. Fon didn’t itemize deductions, so I thought it would be a simple matter of asking them directly. Hold on to your seats, because what follows is a fast ride into a brick wall.

Click to expand: Read the rest of this entry »

For the Fon of it

April 17, 2011

Hello folks! I bet you’re surprised to see this post come up in your RSS readers. I never thought i’d write in this blog again, and this will probably really will be the final one. I had a couple hundred people following me via Google Reader back in the heyday. I was going to post a traditional “Fon Forgets it’s 5th Birthday” post back in February, but when the day came, I just said “meh”. ;)

I’ve long since unsubscribed to any Fon-related RSS feeds or Google Alerts. Four years of Fon’s vars-assinine clowning was enough for me, ending in an email exchange with Martin Varsavsky himself, and Alex Puregger. Martin seemed to feel that he was entitled to nothing but respect and praise, denying that Fon concealed poor or fraudulent statistics, and bounced me over to Alex to answer any questions I had. Alex had an off-the-cuff excuse for refusing every one of my questions, citing “confidentiality agreements”, including confirming information i’d gotten from Fon e-partner public websites. They bounced me back and forth, getting ever-more indignant and arrogant. Then Martin posted yachting photos in his Spanish blog, and wrote about how he didn’t care what anyone thought of him since he had his money and other pleasures anyway. Perhaps i’ll post the emails later.

I’ve noticed that after more than a year, there is still a steady amount of traffic coming in to read about my old projects, so I decided to fix the missing pictures and correct broken links so you have the benefit of those diagrams and illustrations i’d created.

I see boards.fon.com has been taken down, and replaced with a nice big clean white sock drawer called forums.fon.com. I still have the images I posted on the original discussion board, and I may make them available in case they don’t appear here:
boards.fon.com at Google Cache or
boards.fon.com at Archive.org

Update: Here is the index of those images. Many are thrown in one big pile, but generally, the images used in this blog are in /b and the images used in boards.fon.com are in /f: elfonblog.fondoo.net/images

It’s true that many links in the sidebar are dead, but i’m going to leave them as-is in remembrance of all of the other Foneros who had once donated resources to the “Movimento Fon”. Interestingly, links to alternate official Fon firmwares like FonBasic, FonAdvanced, and FonSpot are still available for download from Fon’s servers. It’s also still possible to download POI files for Fon’s hotspot locations directly.

Speaking of Fon hotspots, I was amused to see that Fon’s Map still shows hotspots that have been dead for many years, including mine here in Austin, TX and those “thrown” in the lake west of Alcobendas, ES where Fon headquarters is. The twist is that every hotspot icon now shows as the “Router On” color! They haven’t even edited the Map’s Legend to obscure the “live vs dead” indicators. That’s called FRAUD, you fonies! However, if you click “see only FON Spots active in the last hour”, they all disappear, everywhere, including AT FON HQ itself. It’s probably just something broken as usual.

In closing, Fon gets two big thumbs-down from The Fonz and me. What a tragic waste of time, money and enthusiasm!

And The Fonz doesnt like it either

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 Forgets Its 4th Birthday Too

February 6, 2010

Yes, it’s been 4 years now since Fon launched. Like its 3rd birthday, Fon has forgotten it!

The Fonero Community, twice reborn, is MIA again.

Promises, promises, so many promises. So many broken promises. So much wasted time and money.

Now, Fon CEO Martin Varsavsky has made the incredulous claim that someone ordered 400,000 Fon routers of some sort. What model, why they had to come from Fon, who only rebadges routers, and who the buyer may be is unknown. But there are enough blanks in Martin’s announcement, that this could mean almost anything. My best-case scenario is that Fon has arranged to supply a coupon-code for a Fonera, to purchasers of the Android phone or even that disappointing abortion known as the Ipad. Get ready, my friends, to give free wifi to all these new folks, who have also paid Fon up front, and funded their network deployment.

Imagine my shock, that none of the news and tech blogs I follow have mentioned this, Fon’s latest crackpot tease. Considering all of the times before that Fon’s press releases have turned out to be polished puckey, any further attention could result in total collapse of Fon’s credibility. Ask anyone on the street; “do you know what Fawn Wifi is?”, and they’ll likely shrug and turn away.

I watched the 1954 and 1999 versions of George Orwell’s Animal Farm last weekend. I suppose that story could represent any number of present-day associations, and it fits Fon well too. Playing to emotions, while concealing the facts. Ever-moving goalposts. Quiet political purges; assassinations. Blatant editing of history. Treating the membership as chattel, while hiding behind masks of fellowship. Faustian bargains with third parties, without the membership’s consent nor desire. The Spanish are indeed familiar with fascism. Should I be surprised?

Foneros, if you are still out there, please comment below. Tell me what you plan to do with Fon this year.

Foneros Panic as Major Legal Loss for Fon Surfaces

July 10, 2009

Fon has been keeping their mouths shut about a legal case in Germany (DE) that they lost LAST YEAR, when the courts ruled that Fon’s resale of Internet service constitutes a breach of DE fair business practice. They’ve also lost the appeal, and the ruling was declared “provisionally enforceable”. This means that Fon can’t charge money for their services throughout DE, even while a second appeal gets under way. Fon remains noncompliant at this time.

Fon CEO Martin Varsavsky issued an unconvincing statement downplaying the seriousness of the matter in his Spanish-only blog:

There are rumors that the FON network was outlawed in Germany. This is not true. We lost a lawsuit against a small operator who does not want its customers (to be) Foneros, but we are negotiating with them to (make them) realize that, like many other operators have realized, that Fon is a good business for them.

Martin still hasn’t gotten around to posting to his German-language blog audience!

Fon issued a similar statement (plus advertisement) for David Garcia (Fon Customer Service) to relay to those concerned within the English Fon Board:

We lost a trial for unfair competition with an ISP that their legal team dosn’t want that their customers share their internet connections, but besides appealing against this rule we’re also negotiating with them to make them realize that Fon is good for their business, as it has happened with other ISPs and mobile phone companies such as BT in UK, ZON in portugal, Comstar in Russia, E-plus in Germany, Neuf in France, etc.
Those companies know that Fon is their partner and it helps them to get a better appreciation from their customers, offering them not only internet at home but at hundreds of thousands of other places.
Also, let me reassure that this ruling only affects FON as a company and not to the Foneros, be them Linus, Bills or Aliens.

These reassurances are weak, as it has been clearly said the DE courts outlawed Fon’s business practice itself, not just within the scope of a single plaintiff.

The Timeline:

  • Nov 11, 2008: FON lost the first trial, Foneros kept uninformed.
  • June 05, 2009: FON lost the second trial, judge rules “The decision is provisionally enforceable”. Foneros still kept uninformed.
  • July 07, 2009: News is broken by a German Legal Weblog Telemedicus with this article and this posting of the court ruling (links lead to English translations).

The court’s decision is that FON has to pay €200,000 due to the Security issues this causes, €25.000,00 for failure to comply by providing a list of Foneros which are customers of Plaintiff “1&1″. Due to losing the second trial, it seems these amounts are now increased to 110%. Upon FON’s second conviction, each breach requires payment of up to €250,000 – or six month’s imprisonment, and halt FON operations for that duration.

Fon proposes to Foneros and the Press, that it is appealing the second ruling, and at the same time, pursuing a “partnership” with the Plaintiff, “1&1?. It is not explained why they believe they will succeed now, when presumably, failure to “partner” resulted in the lawsuit in the first place. Nor is it clear how they can pursue an appeal without offending the Plaintiff at the same time.

What will happen to Foneros in DE, if Fon loses the right to operate there? At the least, there will be no more sales of passes to Aliens there. Free roaming will probably continue among Linuses and visiting Bills. However, a major component of the Fon System will be destroyed.

It is also unknown what effect this legal loss will have on Foneros in other countries, who may belong to ISPs which are also unwilling to passively participate. Can we depend on Fon to accurately turn Day Pass sales on and off at will, depending on the Fonero’s ISP? Will Fon update older La Fonera WiFi router’s firmwares to permit disabling sharing? – this is a feature now found in La Fonera 2.0. If Fon updates older firmware for that feature, will they consider including the software-based improvements which they have seen fit to provide only in newer hardware?

If Fon cannot resell Internet service in DE, what could they sell in that territory instead? Perhaps they will take my gift idea of using the routers to host VPN servers so they could sell privacy and security enhancement services? Foneros and Aliens worldwide would appreciate this as well!

Elfonblog thanks skynetbbs for providing translation of the lawsuit timeline.

Bandwidth Rationing by Monopolies

April 10, 2009

If you’re a high speed Internet customer in the USA, particularly of Time Warner Cable, you can’t have missed the exploding controversy about their plans to impose bandwidth (download?) limits and charge customers who go over that limit.

Let’s just establish some facts here: bandwidth is not a product which is manufactured and consumed. It is 100% recyclable. No bits, bytes or gigabytes are being destroyed in the process of providing it to people. Bandwidth does not really cost ISPs anything to transmit beyond the cost of keeping the network equipment turned on and air conditioned! Bandwidth is merely the equivalent of a certain percentage of the network’s attention for a certain period of time. If everyone shut their cablemodems off at the same time for a day, TWC’s costs would drop only by an insignifigant percentage!

Another fact: there is no such thing as a “bandwidth hog”. Customers who download very little do NOT “subsidize” customers who download more. Bytes are not manufactured things which are consumed in the course of use. It is not ounces of fuel or kilowatts of electricity. Customers have contracts for “as high as (LOL)” speeds, and unlimited bandwidth over the course of the billing period. No one actually manages to acquire that much bandwidth, let alone exceed it! It’s true that the telcom monopolies have oversold their Internet service, but that is not the fault or problem of the customer. We’re not “hogs” just because we download and upload a statistically higher percentage than the grandma living next door!

There’s simply no other fair way to provide and bill Internet service other than by rate/sec over the billing period!

Another fact: a fully-utilized network costs only 7% more to maintain than an idle one, due to slightly higher cooling expenses, and long-term equipment wear.* THERE ARE NO BANDWIDTH SHORTAGES except where TWC and other monopolies are causing them as a pretense to raise prices and ration it!!

TWC would rather spend their magnificent profits on yachts for every day of the week than to upgrade their networks to meet their customer’s needs. They have no substantial competition! The bottom line is that in the short term, TWC is trying to kill video and voice services other than their own, by placing such an insultingly low threshold to start charging “overages”. In the long term, TWC is trying to link a fixed price to an irrelevant unit of measure, when the cost of providing the service is really dropping, even though technology makes much higher speeds possible.

If TWC imposes bandwidth caps of ANY KIND, I will abandon them immediately. If there are no alternatives, I will form a co-op with all of the neighbors on my block: those of us with Internet service will pool our connections together with the multi-WAN router I have sitting on this shelf here, and we’ll sell it to the rest of the neighbors and split the cost all around. A little bandwidth monitoring and management will ensure that we rarely go over our “limits” and if TWC feels “screwed” about this, then all I can say is that i’m not bringing any lube.

Customers of Time Warner Cable: please click the link below to join the online petition opposing their bandwidth caps:
Time Warner Cable Road Runner Bandwidth Cap

4/14 Addition: I am beginning to suspect that this is all another trick. Last year, ISP monopolies “gave in” to their customers who opposed packet filtering. And while people were still cheering, they blithely added “we’ll just throttle instead”. And isn’t that what they wanted to do all along, hmmmm? Now here we have what looks like a similar setup: absolutely ridiculously, insultingly low downloading caps that are guaranteed to raise a public outcry. Let us begin to anticipate what it is that TWC really wants, if it is not tiered downloading caps and Draconian overuse fees. Let us not be fooled again. TWC is probably following in some other telco’s footsteps here, and TWC’s experiment will serve as a testbed for every other greedy monopolistic ISP in the world, and believe me, the only kind of monopolistic ISP is a greedy one.

4/21 Addition: It seems that Time Warner is in tears, is taking it’s ball and going home. News is coming in that they’re not going to roll out DOCSIS 3, or offer higher speed connections. Sounds like punishment to me. TWC to Customers: You Don’t Want Tiers, You Don’t Get Super-fast Broadband

*I learned about this a couple of years ago, in an article which quoted a frank admission by a company president of a big backbone provider. I have been unable to find the URL, because the search terms “network neutrality” have too much noise to signal in a Google search. However, here is a new NYT article that makes the same point almost as well as the one I remember:
As Costs Fall, Companies Push to Raise Internet Price

Fon’s Three Year Anniversary

February 6, 2009

It’s today. Let’s go see if Fon forgot again, like they did last year. 😀

ClearWire’s WiMax/WiFi Router

January 13, 2009

Reviews are coming in from Portland OR, USA about the quality of WiMax service launched there by Clearwire. Most of what I am reading sounds positive.

I mentioned Clearwire in my previous blog. They have been offering a sort of “pre-WiMax” wireless broadband service in major cities across the USA.

Clearwire and Sprint had intended to partner under the Xohm name, and roll out WiMax throughout the USA. Austin, TX had been one of those target cities, and I was very excited! To make a long blog short, Sprint is not doing so well, and the partnership dissolved, leaving Clearwire to attempt a more limited roll-out on their own.

Here is their handy little WiMax/WiFi router. This device marries a WiMax modem in an USB dongle with a small WiFi router equipped with an USB port. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

It’s dissapointing that Fon’s Fonosferat Program has avoided thinking of La Fonera 2.0’s USB port as a WAN interface. With WiMax and WiBro dongles available for a year already, Fon could have achieved the WiMax-Fon router by now. Perhaps they are still looking for a way to deliver Fon CEO Martin Varsavsky’s vision of *providing* WiMax service via a Fon device which is tethered as usual to DSL or cablemodem?

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.

The Five Stages of a Fon e-Movement

October 22, 2008

Preface: So the reader understands, the following is a summary of changes in direction which Fon has gone through since conception. This is not a parody nor wish-list. You may not have been aware of some of these former lives of Fon, but you can verify everything with your favorite search engine.

Stage 1) Distribute free Fon hotspot-for-VOIP-handset software, and build a community of volunteers who will run it on dedicated PCs, so that the public can save money on voice calls wherever such a (ad-hoc) Fon hotspot can be found. These are comparable to today’s femtocells, only they use wifi instead of rebroadcasting cellular frequencies, and are comparable to Fon’s experimental “FonSpot” software which is based on Linux. Fon to openly challenge monopolistic telco companies by selling cheaper services. Fon to profit by reselling Internet bandwidth donated by the volunteers.

Stage 2) Stage 1 plan fails to attract enough press or jump certain legal obstacles. Fon disavows it’s original plans, and remarkets the company as a community of volunteers who run Fon hotspots for PCs, with emphasis on the fairly obligatory “free roaming” feature offered to members. Changes the pronunciation of the company from “phone” to “fawn” and claim that they are named after the North African Fon Ethnic tribe. 😯 Ad-hoc-wifi PC software is dropped, and Fon is retooled as router firmware for popular wifi routers. Distribute free router firmware, and sell a supply of Linksys routers pre-flashed to get things moving. Official Launch of Fon as a Revolution, a Network, and a Community. The populist, community friendly facade permits Fon to attract fans and gloss over shortcomings in their membership terms and business plan. Most adoption takes place among techie hobbyists. The Press applauds.

Stage 3) Stage 2 plan fails to establish sustainable market for wifi sales, and Fon never explores whether it is their terms, their price point, or their chosen market which is at fault. Linksys routers ran out of stock. Product partnerships failed due to Fon’s exaggerated promises, creative alternate definitions and numerous unmentioned conditions. Member churn is high, because the Fon program does not keep their interest* long enough, and the routers are very easy to improve with better firmware (designed by an disgruntled ex-Fon developer). Fon invests literally no resources on the “revolution” or “community” aspects of their network, unless it makes a good soundbyte for the press. After an extended period of inactivity, during which the Fonero Community nearly completely dies away, Fon begins replacing the old open-source routers with a proprietary one. In key areas, a supply of those routers is given away or sold at cost, to encourage rapid growth of the Network. Most adoption now takes place among newbies, people who need a cheap wifi solution but did not read the fine print, and others who are far less likely to be dedicated to something because they weren’t asked to really invest in it. The Press applauds loudly. Fon now to profit from router sales, and by inflating the value of the company for eventual resale.

Stage 4) Stage 3 plan fails to generate sufficient nor permanent network growth. Proprietary routers prove to be hackable, but most owners simply discard them now when they lose interest*. Fonero Community, which Fon has failed to establish a relationship with, and has little influence over, is reaching out to The Press independantly. Foneros have studied and analyzed Fon’s TOS now, and are growing increasingly unhappy. Fon focuses on profitable router sales, and actively conceals statistics which reveal real growth, churn, and actual service availability. Fon diverts resources to non-wifi related gimmicks and side projects, neglecting the usage complaints and bug reports from the members. Fon to perhaps profit from side projects, when they become independant companies, by bleeding Fon for research & development resources, thus saving them expenses.

Stage 5) Fon forges “partnerships” with other wifi networks by granting “free roaming” for their members, to the whole network of Fon hotspots. These roaming agreements are typically one-way, free only for the partners, and the rest are subject to many conditions for the Fon members. “Partner” hotspots are quickly added to Fon’s census to suggest rapid and healthy growth. Everything is marketed as “good for Fon”, as it is suggested that members of the public are more likely to purchase a Fon router of their own if they are aware of the Fon concept. Emphasis is placed on “network growth”, but this is measured primarily by router purchases now. Fon claims to operate openly, but has never revealed statistics on day pass transactions, repeat sales, or membership churn. Fon continues to profit up-front from router sales, and continue to craft clever statistics to make the company seem more healthy. Fon still reports no churn, and the available figures strongly suggest that they are deliberately ignoring it. Fon CEO and Fon PR contradict each other’s growth statistics, but both suggest that Fon will cease operating at a loss by the end of 2009. Fon to profit if there is a buyer after that point?

Fon claims to have gained it’s one millionth “member”, using a brand new definition of such, and stretching that to a rather wide interpretation. Only a small handful of blogs reported this event. The Press at large ignored it.

*Foneros lose interest for various reasons, including: attracting too few customers, being unable to find hotspots to roam onto, unanswered questions about Fon’s legality, doubts about Fon’s security, objections to Fon’s membership and profitsharing conditions, incompatability with Fon’s router hardware/firmware, other hardware failures, discovering that they were unable to expand an existing LAN on a budget as hoped, or other reasons which Fon did not live up to their expectations.

I have left out a few twists and turns, because they either didn’t last very long, or didn’t result in signifigant change in Fon’s growth, method of operation, or culture. It would be an interesting excercise to draw up an academic timeline of Fon events and announcements, with references, and emphasis on points of contradiction. As for La Fonera 2 and Fonosferatu; we shall see. At the moment, I fear that they are just time-killers to make the company look lively until it recovers or gets sold. Fon has time on it’s hands now, and has those expensive La Fonera+’s to unload. The Linksys are gone, the La Fonera 1.x are probably running low, and there are only 1000 La Fonera 2’s. Fon is still relatively idle. Even their directors and developers are starting to wander into the message board now, looking for amusement.

So in a nutshell, Fon has clearly been sailing for a long time without anyone with a firm grip at the helm. The exaggerations and eroding credibility began quite early on. Fon has lost passengers and officers at every port, and Fon’s final destination changed frequently, with little regard for the remaining passengers. Fon hopes to pay for the cruise by selling the passenger’s belongings, and eventually the ship. 🙁

Interestingly, Fon CEO Martin Varsavsky has begun to carefully admit that Fon isn’t doing so well these days. He’s blaming it on the pending economic collapse, of course. However, we know that Fon has been showing signs of floundering and rebooting for a long time now. The layoffs Martin frequently mentions in the present-tense actually happened months ago. If the economy was strong, Fon would be doing just as bad, but still pretending things were rosy.