Internet big boys Google and Skype have teamed up with two venture capital firms, Index Ventures and Sequoia Capital, to invest a mighty wedge into Fon Technology, a Spanish startup looking to build a global network of Wi-Fi hotspots.
A total of €18 million ($21.6 million) has been invested in the Madrid-based company, with the cash being set aside to increase the number of Fon users and to support the growth of Wi-Fi worldwide, “particularly in countries where broadband is currently unaffordable to most people.”
Fon’s service allows subscribers to connect and/or share their WiFi connections with others and has notched up 3,000 registered members since launching a beta version of its service in November 2005.
The company hopes to establish a global network of 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots by 2010, allowing FON users, or “foneros,” to connect to the Internet via FON WiFi hotspots provided by other foneros (we’re already getting fed up saying ‘fon’ ).
For Google and Skype, a deal with FON makes their web-based services more ubiquitously available, with developers gaining access to a new platform for creating and delivering services on a global scale.
FON intends to scoop up revenue from a subscription model, where ‘foneros’ sign up as Linus members (sharing their home WiFi hotspot with the FON network and able to use any FON hotspot for free), Bill members (sharing WiFi hotspots with Alien members for a fee but unable to roam the FON network for free) and Alien members who pay to use the FON network on an as-needed basis.
According to FON, fifty-percent of revenue generated from ‘Aliens’ will be shared with ‘Bills’, with alien memberships currently available on a free-trial basis.
We’re not sure how he kept a straight face, but FON founder, Martin Varsavsky is quoting as saying, “Aliens are at the heart of our business model.”
“As we continue to grow, we will attract consumers for all three foneros categories and achieve our goal of creating a global WiFi nation. This is a great opportunity for ISP’s, bloggers, developers, early adopters, consumer electronics manufacturers and the ‘average Joe or Jane’ with a WiFi connection to make money by letting other foneros connect to the Net safely and simply,” he continued.
Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom was also enthusiastic: “There is perhaps no more important goal for the industry than helping to make broadband Internet access available around the world.”
“FON has a great idea to help people share WiFi with one another to build a global unified broadband network, and we’re happy to lend support. Enabling more communities to tap into the power of the Web benefits us all,” he added.