Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Madrid's Fon SA launches WiFi Internet service


Fon SA, a Madrid-based community WiFi developer, announced the launch yesterday of its service in Taiwan as an alternative for local users to obtain free or low-cost Internet access.

Founded in November last year, Fon's service allows users with wireless routers to share some of their bandwidth at home, and get free access to the Internet wherever there is Fon coverage.

In that way, every Fon user who shares his/her bandwidth is an access point. The more access points there are, the bigger the coverage.

As of the end of last month, there were over 170,000 members of Fon in 140 countries, making it the world's fastest-growing WiFi community, Alexander Puregger, Fon's general manager in Asia, told reporters on the sideline of a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Fon is in talks with local Internet service providers (ISP) and telecom companies to jointly promote the WiFi-sharing service, with Digital United Inc (數位聯合電信) and China Network Systems Co (中嘉網路) to be the first two partners, Puregger said.

By the end of January, Fon hopes to rope in at least 5,000 access points, Puregger said, adding that there were already 2,000 users in Taiwan registered with the Fon, even before the local Website was launched.

Digital United, operator of Seednet ISP, has commenced promoting the Fon service as part of IT Month activities, giving free routers to users who subscribe to its ADSL.

"By working with Fon, we can expand our hotspots at a faster pace at much lower cost," said Tsou Shih-ming (鄒世民), an associate manager at Digital United.

Digital United currently has around 250,000 ADSL subscribers, and the company intends to promote the Fon service among established users, Tsou said.

Once the Fon network is large enough in Taiwan, Fon will consider charging people who do not join the Fon community but want to use the connection, probably six months after the launch, Lin Yi-kai (林義凱), a public relations official at Fon Wireless Taiwan Ltd said.

The charge will be about US$3 for the first 24 hours, and US$2 for the next 24 hours, Puregger said. Income is divided evenly between Fon and hotspot providers, Puregger said.

Puregger said Fon is not afraid of the already intense competition for broadband access, including Taipei City's Wifly service.

Once more mobile devices are WiFi-enabled, such as digital cameras, game consoles and digital music players, the demand for high-speed transmission will rise.

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