The guys at FON are getting plenty of press for their latest efforts at rolling their WiFi network out into more locations. Five Euro/USD (plus P&P) sounds pretty tempting for a WiFi router, but, are a million routers enough to get a critical mass of FON WifI coverage around the globe?
No, it won't be even close as the basic maths just doesn't work out. FON will be useful for many people, if only because it's provided them with a cheap router, or a simple way to serve WiFi to their customers, or because they regularly travel to some of the tiny islands of FON's WiFi coverage. But as a way to get WiFi everywhere, forget it.
Martin Sauter has some fascinating figures about the municipal WiFi rollout in San Francisco, with 25 WiFi routers per square mile, At a similar density, FON's one million routers would only cover 40,000 square miles, or 4 major cities.
Then again if global domination and uniform coverage isn't the aim, FON will win a lot of customer goodwill with their easy to use and cheap (that word again) routers. The basic costs of a FON router make it an attractive proposition for say a bar or coffee shop. Rough maths - costs of a dsl line at say 20 Euro a month plus a FON router (say 20 Euro once VAT and P&P are included) i.e. 260 Euro for one year, you can cover that with 130 paying users a year (Aliens or Bills in FON-parlance) i.e. 2-3 a week. Tempting, no? And, if you've already got the dsl, then all you have to cover are the router costs and possible bandwidth fees if things take off.
Whether FON can make or raise enough money to cover their costs, buy new routers, and keep the whole caravan on the road is another matter altogether, it's certainly an interesting experiment, almost collective entrepreneurship. One to watch, and perhaps an opportunity that's worth grabbing.
For the record I've been running a FON router for a while, it's had minimal usage by myself or any other users, and the next nearest FON router is 20 miles away, is that indicative of Fon's future? Who knows.