Fon's continuing struggles in the US Market
I've remained pretty unimpressed with FON recently. Their expansion in the USA has gone in fits and starts of free giveaways that seem to result in basically no growth of their network. We can no longer see the real numbers after the inaccurate data problems they had...
However, I have kept a close eye on the statistics for certain areas and have noticed two consistent situations:
- Growth of active hotspots in the areas I watch on the FON Maps is stagnant or declining
- The majority of access points are still in suburban areas - the freeloading "Linus" model is more popular than the Bill
This isn't a real surprise. Their model rewards people who live in low density zones and sign up simply to get access to free routers. The result is a low quality network. On a recent trip to upstate New York I was amazed that there were basically no routers in the towns I visited and those that existed were in the middle of nowhere. The US is a spread out land, and the availability of the Linus model just might not work here.
Fon's deal with TimeWarner
Now, however, FON has a deal with TimeWarner which could get them some real traction. This plan will only work, in my opinion, if the FON router is provided integrated into the router for all TimeWarner customers. TimeWarner is already giving out thousands of these devices a day - and integrating the FON software into them can't be all that hard - so they should do it and advertise it as a feature of their network. Call it the TimeWarner international free WiFi on the road plan. Now that would appeal to TimeWarners customers and instantly blanket Manhattan in FON's Wifi in ways that the current system of free routers for folks near starbucks, or free routers for folks in parts of Manhattan ever could.