Fon Hopes to Give the U.S. More Free Wi-Fi, Plus Music
Finding free Wi-Fi around the U.S. could be getting a whole lot easier if Fon manages to succeed in wooing Internet users with its next set of wireless routers. The company has started a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to secure backing and ensure a user base within the United States, and the devices could be hitting the streets as early as this summer.
In the U.S., Fon will likely be an unfamiliar name for many and may just lead to word confusion about baby deer. However, in Europe, the name has a lot more meaning. Fon offers a pretty simple product and service, but the concept is a bit bigger than that. Customers buy Fon Wi-Fi routers, which they hook up to their Internet connection. Those routers then split the connection into two: one for the owner and the other for all other Fon users. This way, Fon users can find access to Wi-Fi while they’re on the go, as they’ll be able to connect to another Fon user’s router using their account credentials.
Everyone who shares their Internet through Fon gets access to everyone else’s shared Fon connection. Currently, Fon has close to 12.7 million users, and the more there are, the better the service is. Take a quick look at Europe or Japan, and you can see how handy being part of Fon can be. France, Belgium, and the U.K. are practically covered with Fon routers. Japan’s coasts and major cities are also covered, while the rest of the country is peppered with routers. Germany, Poland, and Spain also have their fair share of users.
In contrast, Fon routers in the U.S. — even throughout most of the Americas — is incredibly sparse. While New York City might have a Fon router every half-dozen blocks, London might have a half-dozen routers every block, and that would be if there were only six buildings on the block. Though routers in the U.S. can be close on occasion, the reality is that they are few and far between.
This is a reality that Fon is looking to crack. Kickstarter is a pretty well-known platform in the U.S. for funding projects at the same time as creating awareness, and Fon started a campaign to offer a Wi-Fi router — called the gramofon — that would also incorporate Web-based music, a la Spotify, with plans to add many other services from the likes of Pandora (NYSE:P), Google Play (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), Grooveshark, and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
It wouldn’t be the same as a Bluetooth connection, either, as the music comes in through the broadband connection of the device, so once the gramofon is told what music to play via a smartphone app, it will continue playing music even if the phone controlling it is no longer present. It would also allow users to set the device up to allow friends to control the music.
The campaign has until May 15 to reach full funding of $250,000, at which point Fon will follow through with building and delivering the devices to anyone who backed the project with $30 or more. After only a few days, the campaign has already reached almost a third of its goal.
If enough support comes from U.S. consumers, Fon may get the kickstart it needs to make the U.S. a new home to its extensive, free Wi-Fi network.