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Darren Waters

Fon - a wi-fi revolution?

  • Darren Waters
  • 30 Dec 07, 09:21 GMT

Back in October BT partnered with wi-fi community company Fon.

The deal meant BT Broadband customers could share their home wi-fi connection with other Fon community members, to create a sort of "social wi-fi".

The news got quite a bit of coverage at the time. But I'll admit I had pretty much forgotten about the deal until I opened up my laptop at the house of a family member and up popped a wi-fi network called BT Openzone.

fon.jpgIt turns out the Openzone connection was a neighbour who had opted in to the Fon deal. I have free Openzone minutes with my BT Broadband account and so was able to log in and share the connection.

Instant wi-fi - great news.

But just how many Fon hotspots are there out there? There are more than 200,000 worldwide, according to Fon - and Japan has the most Fon-enabled routers - with 24,000.

A search on the BT Fon website - on which you can locate nearby Fon hotspots - certainly revealed a fair sprinkling in the Cardiff area, where I'm currently based. But not enough to be classed as blanket wi-fi.

The option to log in to a free w-fi hotspot - if you're a Fon user - certainly trumps having to pay about £10 for an hour's wi-fi access from a commercial provider.

With city-wide wi-fi zones struggling to take off, could Fon be a solution?
In October the founder of Fon, Martin Varsavsky, met with Apple's Steve Jobs, who had expressed an interest in the firm's work.

Free wi-fi for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch users? Well, nothing seems as yet to have come from the meeting.

It's clear that Fon will only make a difference if enough people sign up.

And that's the first thing I'm going to do when I get home. Share and share alike.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 04:22 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

The problem with these services is that you are letting people into your internal network, inside your firewall. This will increase the risk of your PCs being hacked or infected with viruses and spyware, which is very high risk for everyone.

  • 2.
  • At 04:35 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • Matt wrote:

So what happens when someone uses your connection to download some child porn?
or terrorist / hate material?
or, gasp, some MP3s?

  • 3.
  • At 04:46 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • adeel wrote:

hey,

Well I put up a petition on downing street website:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Force all citizen to unlock thier Wifi so that everyone can share a free internet everywhere.

I guess its about time we had a debate on it. It would be of considerable interest and benefit for the lower stratas of the community, with us the HAVE's giving something back to the Havenots!

I hope lots of people can sign the petition.

  • 4.
  • At 04:53 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • adeel wrote:

hey,

Well I put up a petition on downing street website:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Force all citizen to unlock thier Wifi so that everyone can share a free internet everywhere.

I guess its about time we had a debate on it. It would be of considerable interest and benefit for the lower stratas of the community, with us the HAVE's giving something back to the Havenots!

I hope lots of people can sign the petition.

  • 5.
  • At 05:18 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • David Jacobs wrote:

Can't say I have any faith in point 2. Fact is, every persons home network is exactly that - their home network. You can't enforce people to start sharing out their own internal bandwidth and WAN connection FOC. If routers are being provided where unauthenticated users are given restricted outbound internet access, i.e. noddy user vlan - that is fine. The likes of BAA do this for Heathrow...however, internal resources need to be blocked, for obvious reasons! Basically, without adequate security - you should never consider this, unless you really know what you're doing!

  • 6.
  • At 05:29 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • Andrew Codd wrote:

I would support this idea if it is shared between people who travel and have have paid up subscription of their own. A small vallage could share a connection by mutual and paid consent for example. But why should councils and others feel the need to encourage free connection in cities to anyone when those elswhere have no prospect of this? Norwich is an example of where this is planned - why should residents benefit from this when others in rural Norfolk have no chance. Another example of the many subsidising the few in central cities. And as for forcing people to unlock your own wifi..

  • 7.
  • At 06:57 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • Ben wrote:

On the BT routers the Fon connection is *seperate* to the internal connection. IE someone on the Fon side of things can't see your network. From the outside it looks as if there are 2 wireless connections there - the encrypted 'real' connection and the Fon Openzone one.

  • 8.
  • At 06:57 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • Jon wrote:

In response to the comment by "Paul 04:22 PM on 02 Jan 2008" - his statement is incorrect. BT's Fon service does not give other's a connection that has access to the owner's own internal network. This is one of the key points of such shared services - if the guest wasn't using a second, separate route from the owner's secure one, the owner would be unlikely to share in the first instance. The owner's traffic has the highest priority too, and the amount of bandwidth shared is relatively small anyway. Initiatives like this are likely to grow as more and more attractive devices become available that can use Wifi outside of our own homes.

What?! You are petitioning the Prime Minister to make everyone share their Wifi? If I am correct in thinking that you are saying this then you should reconsider.
Matt posted about people abusing peoples internet connections - someone could easily use your router to gain access to sites containing illegal content, how the hell is anyone meant to keep track of these people?!
Plus, if someone is paying for their own internet, then it is their own decision as to whether it should be shared or not. If internet was made free by the government, then people could use that at their own risk. I would never 'unlock' my wifi network to strangers, and I am sure that the majority would agree that your petition is a waste of time - we are paying for our internet, therefore we decide how we use it and who to allow access to. However, please feel free to 'unlock' your internet for the use of complete strangers.
One question - is your Wifi unlocked? Or do you not have it and want to leach off of others?

Andrew, it is a minority that live in rural areas, and the vast majority of people live in urban and suburban areas, where there could be possible benefits for this.

I'm waiting for my dedicated Fon router to arrive in the post, following a recent offer they made.

I have no worries about sharing my connection, as it will be on the other side of a firewall from my LAN.

Another concern for many people us broadband usage allowanced - many ISPs "fair use" limits are so low that I could log on and use them up within an hour!

  • 12.
  • At 08:38 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • Graham Found wrote:

I am sure there are already many wireless routers whose wep key has been given to neighbours. Indeed it is not too hard to spot hardwire network cables running over back fences, if you look around!

However I have to admit that nothing has proved to be so cost effective and convenient as my current usb modem linked to a mobile network provider. The thought of darting around looking for hot spots would drive me nuts. The speeds might vary but faster speed reception areas seem to be growing all the time. To be honest how long it takes my emails to download while I am happily driving to my next destination does not bother me that much.

Unless wi-fi is going to cover rural areas and roads that pass through miles of countryside, which I can not yet see as possible, mobile internet will win this game. After all, why leave my net connection at home when I can take it with me?

  • 13.
  • At 01:06 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • andrew giggal wrote:

I like the idea in theory for people to unlock their wireless connections and gain faster broadband. It could possibly prevent disconnections from upsetting game players.

However i feel that currently there isnt enough protection. If 10 houses get the broadband whats to stop the other 10 houses not paying a thing but using the system.

It would be much more feasable for people to have an aditional cost or even benefit in their council tax.

So your a broadband subscriber you unlock your wifi you gain a reduction in your council tax.

However might it be that one person gets all the trafic because they happen to be the closest on the network to more people.

Its all really too complex to comprehend i know i wouldnt unlock my broadband wifi i know my neighbours have wifi but both their connections are security protected (if they wernt i would be telling them how to lock them)

Its would take a large amounts of research and development to really but together a public wifi network that would give access to everyone.

But the companies will charge for the privledge like the charge for everything else. O well the future will tell im sure.

  • 14.
  • At 02:01 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • Lloyd wrote:

I'm sorry the 'fon' is ludicruous quite frankly. Firstly, consider the cell size created by a single radio access point, then multiply that by even 10,000 fon routers and at best your total coverage is at 100,000 square metres? Across the entire UK, i'm sorry that's idiotic. Also the 'strain' on wi-fi is a technology issue, it's the fact that the frequency we work on (2.4Ghz) is firstly limited to 100mw output power hindering distance, line of site issues and dispersion. The idea is to output little power so you don't become a hinderance to other wireless access points/Fon. You can only overlap a maximum of 3 different wi-fi radios as these are how many channels are available. (Kinda like a 3 set, RC remote control car set) if you add a fourth you cause interference and then Wi-Fi is about as useful as...Well you know what.

And these are the primary laws as to why 'mesh networking' of this sense will NEVER mainstream, why BT are backing it God knows. Also you can now turn your 'home wi-fi router' into a 'hotspot' where you'll even get money through, a simple case of uploading firmware on supported modems/routers and hey presto, when the user logs on he is forwarded to the page of the designers of the firmware you've uploaded, they charge him and you get a percentace for the provision of using your internet line - You could take £10 off 10 people in a day without even knowing it.

Point is....'mesh networking' will never work, laws of physics. We need to hop to a different spectrum.

Regards,
-Lloyd.

  • 15.
  • At 03:43 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • Russ wrote:

I installed a wi-fi router six months ago and left it unsecured, so that I could access the net around the house, via my laptop. To date, no problems with hackers, etc, despite the doom-merchants.

I have unlimited downloads, but am not a big user and when I am not using my wired desktop pc, it is switched off, so cannot itself be accessed, even though my wi-fi connection is still live, for my laptop.

As I communicated to Bill Thompson some time ago, despite the legallity, or otherwise, of 'freeloading', it is my opinion, that if I wish to leave my wi-fi unsecured and some passerby decides to access his e-mails or what-have-you, he should be free to do so, without having to worry about being prosecuted, whether or not he pays for his own Broadband connection. I don't have a problem with it, so why should joe bloggs?

Please note, I use Kaspersky Internet Security 7 on all my pooters, so I am not worried about crims, or hackers.

Keep surfing.
Russ

  • 16.
  • At 03:56 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • Russ Betts wrote:

I installed a wi-fi router six months ago and left it unsecured, so that I could access the net around the house, via my laptop. To date, no problems with hackers, etc, despite the doom-merchants.

I have unlimited downloads, but am not a big user and when I am not using my wired desktop pc, it is switched off, so cannot itself be accessed, even though my wi-fi connection is still live, for my laptop.

As I communicated to Bill Thompson some time ago, despite the legallity, or otherwise, of 'freeloading', it is my opinion, that if I wish to leave my wi-fi unsecured and some passerby decides to access his e-mails or what-have-you, he should be free to do so, without having to worry about being prosecuted, whether or not he pays for his own Broadband connection. I don't have a problem with it, so why should joe bloggs?

Please note, I use Kaspersky Internet Security 7 on all my pooters, so I am not worried about crims, or hackers.

Keep surfing.
Russ

  • 17.
  • At 08:50 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • Zmodem wrote:

Yeah, they should be free and unlocked but mainly they should be faster!

One thing I like about the internet is how it is inherently secure against nuclear attack and / or tampering from petty politicians dreaming up new rules and regulations.

Now about that faster thing, I have an external USB hard drive which can transfer one DivX movie, about 700mb (can just fit on a CD) in about 3 minutes, that'd be an ok speed. At the moment it takes ages to download them from either of the two unprotected wifi networks within reach.

Maybe with these kinds of speeds I wouldn't have to download them, just stream them when I want to watch them, what was it Mitnik said, "The internet is my hard drive"

  • 18.
  • At 08:57 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • Zmodem wrote:

Yeah, they should be free and unlocked but mainly they should be faster!

One thing I like about the internet is how it is inherently secure against nuclear attack and / or tampering from petty politicians dreaming up new rules and regulations.

Now about that faster thing, I have an external USB hard drive which can transfer one DivX movie, about 700mb (can just fit on a CD) in about 3 minutes, that'd be an ok speed. At the moment it takes ages to download them from either of the two unprotected wifi networks within reach.

Maybe with these kinds of speeds I wouldn't have to download them, just stream them when I want to watch them, what was it Mitnik said, "The internet is my hard drive"

  • 19.
  • At 10:14 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • Kris Fraser wrote:

Comment for Russ,

how can you be so naive to say you havent got a problem with strangers accessing your internet connection, its got nothing to do with cost, im sure if someone used your connection to get child porn and you got arrested for it, you would have something to say.

think a bit more carefully

As a successful Network Specialist I cannot recommend BT Openzone as a valid choice. The reasons are quite simple. Network Security, Bandwidth Hogging and Slow interrupted services that are reminiscent of 56k. This year we see the Launch of WIMAX through Fredom4 a Pipex company. This will shake up the omni presence of broadband internet access market and force prices down. Simply put BT Openzone is BT's last stand at providing data services. My prediction for 2008/09, we will see a major shrinkage in services provided through landline, which will ring in the final bell for BT.

  • 21.
  • At 11:12 AM on 03 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Ryder wrote:

The idea you could share wifi connections with anyone is a nice idea, but its just that a nice 'idea'!, sadly as the internet as we know has undesireable content that can be downloaded at will I would be unhappy at leaving my wifi connection open to all and anyone only to have pc plod turn up at 'my' door some day claiming I was downloading unacceptable material from my ISP when I was not the individual doing it and then having to prove I wasn't, complete with all the intrusion that would bring!. So until this can be overcome and safe guarded in that whoever is downloading from the connection is tracable and made legally responsible for there own actions my wifi connection will remain firmly locked down under my control. Open wifi sounds great but the abuse factor has to be properly considered in order for open wifi to become a workable idea, so giving the point I've made I don't think any petition on the Downing Street website is likely to force people to open up there wifi connections unless this type of issue can be resolved to safe guard wifi owners.

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