How Fon could become disruptive?


Recently I wrote an article about Ryancom. I received a comment that Fon.com was already doing certain things like making broadband access available for free globally.

I want to take the opportunity to make some suggestions that would make Fon a really disruptive player.

Fon has some really nice residential WiFi routers. A basic version, the Fonera Simpl with an optional antenna, Fontenna, to reach more distance. Additionally there is the Fonera 2.0 N which allows a community of developers to extend the product with new functionality. Finally they can embed their software into operator’s existing WiFi routers.

Fon’s routers are based on OpenWrt, an open source Linux firmware distribution for embedded devices. Developers can create extra plugins / packages that can be deployed on the router.

How to make Fon more disruptive?

For many technical people having access to a global set of WiFi points all over the globe is a really good reason to buy a Fon WiFi. Unfortunately non-technical people might be lost in the technical details about how you can access somebody’s else Internet and might be scared of other people using their Internet. So for most people the Fon offering is like a vitamine and not really a painkiller.

By changing the value proposition of Fon towards becoming a painkiller for more people, Fon would be able to get more active demand for its products from consumers and also via telecom operators.

Fon painkiller example: Parental Control

Most parents would not care less which router is used to access the Internet. The only thing they know is that their offspring knows a hundred times more about Internet then they do. Additionally they know that Internet is full of dangers for kids and teenagers. Children always tell their parents they need Internet to do their home work. But reality is that most surfing is not done for homework 😉

So what if Fon would have an OpenFlow compatible WiFi router with FlowVisor combined with a Cloud solution. To spare the technical details, the summary is that parents would be able to partition their Internet access based on who is accessing. What would this bring?

Kids Internet – 3-8 year olds would only have access to a strict whitelist of Internet pages. Parents would not have to find this white page themselves. Instead people and companies could make white lists and parents could subscribe to them. Examples could be a Disney white list, a SuperNanny [the television show] whitelist. Parents would know that their young children could never go to pages that are unsuitable. Young children would have a start page with icons like the iPad in which they can click on the page and immediately go their favourite games or watch cartoons. Children could be limited in the time they can spend on Internet and special bonus points for good behaviour could buy them more time or bad behaviour could be punished with less time. Parents would need an “Apple” friendly interface to pick whitelists and set-up and manage Internet access times.

Pre-teens / Teens Internet – 9-17 years od – restrictions apply. Parents could define studying time slots in which only certain Internet content can be accessed, e.g. Wikipedia. Also here external entities could define whitelists. Time-based filters for open Internet access could also be set. Additionally special purpose filters are set-up, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, MSN, Skype, eMule, Google+ etc. This would allow teens to access Facebook and other sites but to have their behaviour screened. Teens could be prohibited to upload pictures of persons, share email/telephone or physical addresses, use F* words, access adult content, etc. There would be a dynamic firewall for each service. Parents could have a high-level reporting interface to see what their kids are doing.

Other painkillers

Parental control is just one example of how a generic router that is connected to a niche Cloud application could be a painkiller for parents. Operators could have other pain points, e.g. reduce botnets, spam, P2P content optimization, etc. Shop owners could have other pain points, e.g. social games for bars, etc.

A lot of possibilities are opening up if routers could be externally managed and very specific easy to use interfaces and solutions are build towards which communities and external companies can contribute and generate new revenue with.

The fact that every Fon router will give you access to a global free broadband network will be a nice add-on for most…

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  1. December 1, 2011 at 2:51 am

    Hi Maarten,

    Fwiw, folks at Stanford are already working on a prototype of this very idea using all of OpenWRT, OpenFlow, and FlowVisor.

    Check out

    Yiannis Yiakoumis, Kok-Kiong Yap, Sachin Katti, Guru Parulkar, and Nick McKeown. Slicing home networks. In Proceedings of the 2011 ACM SIGCOMM workshop on Home networks, HomeNets ’11, New York, NY, USA, 2011. ACM.

    [http://www.stanford.edu/~yiannisy/cgi-bin/docs/slicing-homes.pdf]

    For a quick look at what they’re doing. It’s a great idea though!

    – Rob Sherwood
    (original author of FlowVisor)
    Big Switch Networks

    • December 1, 2011 at 10:01 am

      Thanks for the very interesting feedback. I will definitely take a look at what Standford is doing…

      Maarten

  1. February 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm

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