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La Fonera Surprise?

Today I got an email from the folks at FON alerting me to a "surprise" that's coming related to the new Fonera:

Today we are launching La Fonera, the FON Community's new Social Router. You will soon be receiving a new special offer to take it home. We wish to thank you for always believing in FON, so we will send you another e-mail to offer you La Fonera in a very special promotion (including a surprise). Just wait and you'll be able to enjoy all the privileges you deserve!

What I hope the surprise contains?

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Fonero Router Growth and Density - Has FON Forced the Last Round of Data?

On September 14th I went to get the data for another round of geographic analysis of FON (density by country and Fonero Growth by country). I was surprised to see the maps had been completely redone and the data I need is no longer readily available. Well, a quick visit to the Google cache of the maps overview page gave me the data I wanted from September 7th. So, I've got snapshots from July 14, August 21, and September 7th which makes monthly growth information a little skewed, but interesting all the same.

This month I have three charts - The 10 most dense countries, the 10 countries with the fastest growth in my sample period, and then a larger chart with some more growth and density information for all countries. Germany is perhaps the most exciting country in these since they are in the top 10 of both: they've really grown quickly and their density, while still not at the highest quality, is getting better fast.

Top 10 most Dense Countries with Foneros

CountryFoneros July 14Foneros September 7Growth Last MonthGrowth Since BeginningKM2/Point JulyKM2/Point September
The Netherlands17382,1884.64%25.89%2419
South Korea29584,70031.80%58.89%3321

Top 10 countries with the fastest FON Router Growth

CountryFoneros July 14Foneros September 7Growth Last MonthGrowth Since BeginningKM2/Point JulyKM2/Point September
South Korea29584,70031.80%58.89%3321
Costa Rica182812.00%55.56%2,8391,825
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Mentiroso: FON Numbers and Coverage

Over at The Fon Blog (unofficial one, that is) antonde has made the claim that the new FON map and the FON counter don't match up. In his sample, less than 10% of the registered foneros showed active WiFi points on the FON map.

Activity of FON Points

In my own sample (my house) the point shows as not being active, but it very definitely is active. FON has some problems to overcome with this map and I'm sure it's just a matter of time. On the one hand, they only want to show points that they are fairly certian are actually working. The most certain test of a "working" router is some recent activity by a fonero on the wifi side of the router. That test is also likely to give "false negatives" such as in the case of my router. It's unlikely that people will use it (I use the wired ethernet side), which marks it as inactive, which makes people unlikely to use's somewhat self-fulfilling. Last night I used the FON wifi network to see how long it would be to show my point as active. Now (12 hours later) it's still not showing as being "active". In my test, the system is overly pessimisting.

Mentiroso FON Counter

antonde also called for FON to 'please stop that “mentiroso” counter on your home page'. Mentiroso is Spanish for "Liar", basically saying that it over-inflated the number of Foneros. Again, in my experience, I was added to the OLD map and I believe I was counted in that number before I had my access point delivered, much less installed and running. The old map and counter were overly optimistic as they counted people as soon as they registered - not based upon actual running routers.

The "right" way to count Foneros?

My personal practice would be to be somewhat pessimistic and only count the points once they've had an active user. However, they should count a router as active if it has had any activity in the past week or month and then also if it has checked in for it's nightly "heartbeat" ping.

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Gaming FON - Will the business model work?

So, I've written in the past about how I think that the FON Crowdsourcing business model is pretty brilliant. And the relatively simple system of Bills, Linuses, and Aliens.

Profitability Numbers

Recently celebrated 1000 passes sold and I've also read that he believes they will be profitable if they make $1/router/month. At 80,000+ routers that's not a bad wad of cash for a shoelace company. Also, everyone is talking about the partnership with Skype as a way for Skype users to have wifi mobile phones. That's an interesting idea, but my money is that their partnership with Skype is also about using FON routers as super nodes (see Robert Cringely's article on the problems with Skype super nodes). Also, Google funded FON without much clear synergy for Google. At the time it started hiring and funding Mozilla Firefox referrals, people took a little while to understand that beyond just "being nice" this secured Google as default search engine in Firefox and that default search engine is easily worth far more than a $1/referral for the search engine ad revenue.

So, beyond the partnerships bringing in money FON is relying on two sources of revenue: Aliens and roaming Bills

How the Digerati Can Game the FON Model

Now, I haven't tried this yet, but here's where I see the way to "game" the FON model. Basically, if you are like the majority of the FON users you live in a place where you are unlikely to get many Aliens visiting your house. So, there is little to no motivation for you to be a Bill. Given that, you sign up as a Linus so that you can roam for free. Now, if you eventually do have a place where you might make some money from Aliens then you register as a Bill. You make money from this location and yet still roam for free. While this is a bit of a weakness of the business model, the reality is that there aren't that many people who will take advantage of it.

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FON: Linus, Bill, Alien?

Milk Your Wifi - Introduction

In the page announcing and explaining how you can make some money with FON, they introduce the concept of three different FON users: Linus, Bill, and Aliens. This is a pretty neat concept and it's what sets FON apart from the purely "sharing" based networks of WiFi hotspots (which never really took off).

What kind of Fonero: Linus, Bill, or Alien?

When you first interact with FON you decide: Linus, Bill, or Alien?

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FON Social Router: Density by Country

More on FON Routers By Country

So, following on my last post about Fonero growth by country and after reading about required density for "wifi roaming coverage" I started thinking about density of routers in my data.

Getting the Country Area Density

I picked up the population and land area by country from "GeoHive". It's really an awesome set of basic data for anyone who likes this kind of thing. So, using that and a little bit of Spread Sheet magic I came up with the following table that shows countries ordered from most dense to least dense FON coverage.

CountryPoints 8/21Area (KM2)KM^2/PointRouters Needed
The Netherlands2,09141,52619.9397,389
South Korea3,56698,48027.6943,812
United Kingdom2,975244,82082.32,352,193
Puerto Rico219,104433.587,559
El Salvador1321,0401618.5202,392
Dominican Republic2748,7301804.8468,756
Costa Rica2551,1002044.0491,557
New Zealand65268,6804133.52,584,637
China Mainland1979,596,96048715.592,322,558

Notes about the Data

The data is from August 21 and the last column in the data shows "Routers Needed" meaning the number of routers needed to achieve the "full density" of 25 routers/square mile (roughly 9.6/square Kilometer).


I'm not sure that there really are many conclusions you can draw from this. Singapore, the Netherlands, Andorra, and South Korea all have fairly high numbers and if you look at metro areas in those countries you can see that indeed walking down a street you'd have pretty good luck finding a FON hotspot. It's not particularly useful to know that the USA needs 92 million more routers to have nationwide coverage - as every cell phone provider will tell you there is lots of land in the US that you just don't need to bother covering! It would certainly be more interesting to know the density of certain metropolitan areas - I assume that some similar internal analysis went into the decision to target 25,000 free routers at Manhattan.

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FON Social Router - FONero Growth by Country

So, back on July 14th when I started discussing FON I took a snapshot of the FON maps page. I figured hey, this thing is growing pretty quickly, wouldn't it be neat to have snapshots of this data so I know how quickly it's growing. Today is the first installment (I was a week late on the whole monthly snapshot thing, but close enough...).

For the impatient - overall monthly growth across the entire earth is just under 25%. This data isn't 100% accurate (they add you to the map before you physically install the router, for one, and I have a feeling they are slow to remove inactive nodes as well) but it's still pretty interesting.

Freedbacking to FON

And, hey FON guys, it sure would be nice if I could get a breakdown by municipality as well. Now that Spain is at 10,000 FONeros (spanish) it would be nice to know how many of those are in Barcelona or Madrid or...

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