BT Fon Launched: The World’s Largest Wi-Fi Community

BT Fon Logo

Ever since BT invested in Fon, I’ve been on the lookout for the launch of a joint BT/Fon service in the UK, and as expected, word of the launch of ‘BT Fon‘ , creating the world’s largest Wi-Fi community, has just hit the wires.

The partnership between BT and Fon is very ingenious, bringing together BT’s 3 million Total Broadband customers, most of whom already have a wireless router in the form of the BT Hub, and Fon’s 500,000 members. Members of the BT Fon community will be able to access any of Fon’s 190,000 Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide, as well as the new BT Fon hotspots that will be created.

BTFON

The new BT Fon hotspots are what makes this proposition special. To use BT Fon, users have to agree to share a small portion of their broadband connection with other members. BT will quite clearly be encouraging its users to opt into the service, and given that BT is the largest ISP in the UK and that each router has a range of 50ft+, BT Fon could very quickly provide complete wi-fi coverage within cities and other built-up areas.

Gavin Patterson, BT Group managing director, Consumer, said:

“This is the start of something very exciting for BT. Today we are launching a people’s network of Wi-Fi, which could one day cover every street in Britain. We are giving our millions of broadband customers a choice and an opportunity. If they are prepared to securely share a little of their broadband, they can share the broadband connections of 190,000 others without paying a penny.”

To provide even more coverage, BT Total Broadband customers will also be able to use BT’s existing BT Openzone wi-fi network, as well as 12 wireless cities. I asked Fraser Smeaton, the Senior Propositions Manager who lead the launch what the coverage targets would be for BT Fon, but he declined to answer. I’m fairly certain that it’s going to be high, as I sometimes used to leave my Dell Axim Wi-Fi on whilst I was driving, and I was amazed by the number of potential wi-fi networks I could have connected to.

Fraser Smeaton and his team didn’t give any details of how much bandwidth each BT Fon customer will be asked to share. It will probably be enough for BT Fon users to be able to surf the net, read emails, watch YouTube videos etc but not enough for anyone who wants to sit outside their neighbours house and download a torrent.

Developing a national Wi-Fi network is going to pose potential issues for mobile operators. For instance, if I were a BT customer (unfortunately I’m with Telewest Virgin Media) I would be able to use my BT Fon Wi-fi connection with my Nokia N95 to not only get much faster download speeds, but I would also be able to make VoIP calls without having to worry about my data costs (VoIP is chargeable on my T-Mobile contract). I’m sure that many people will be thinking the same, including business users who have GPRS/3G cards in their laptops, particularly as BT Fon will be free to BT Broadband users.

It will be interesting to see how mobile and broadband operators respond to BT’s continuing moves to deliver broadband access both in and out of the home. The mobile operators have already been reducing their data costs of late; lets hope that new services like BT Fon force them to make even deeper cuts.

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23 Responses to BT Fon Launched: The World’s Largest Wi-Fi Community

  1. vincent October 4, 2007 at 9:33 am #

    Wow, that’s an marveleous strategy. Now I understand the community in the title.

  2. vincent October 4, 2007 at 10:33 am #

    Wow, that’s an marveleous strategy. Now I understand the community in the title.

  3. me October 4, 2007 at 9:52 am #

    BT fanboi!

  4. me October 4, 2007 at 10:52 am #

    BT fanboi!

  5. Zath October 4, 2007 at 1:10 pm #

    Now this is rather interesting, sounds like a great community to be part of and the benefits sound good – the more cynical and concerned side of me would question what would be the legal position for any ‘dodgy’ stuff going on through the shared portion of your connection?

  6. Zath October 4, 2007 at 2:10 pm #

    Now this is rather interesting, sounds like a great community to be part of and the benefits sound good – the more cynical and concerned side of me would question what would be the legal position for any ‘dodgy’ stuff going on through the shared portion of your connection?

  7. Everton October 4, 2007 at 1:24 pm #

    To connect to the routers users will probably have to authenticate themselves, so I’m guessing that BT will know,. But, it would be interesting to see who the RIAA or anyone else who’s tracking IP addresses blames for any illegal activity – interesting.

  8. Avatar of Everton
    Everton October 4, 2007 at 2:24 pm #

    To connect to the routers users will probably have to authenticate themselves, so I’m guessing that BT will know,. But, it would be interesting to see who the RIAA or anyone else who’s tracking IP addresses blames for any illegal activity – interesting.

  9. Everton October 4, 2007 at 2:23 pm #

    I’ve worked it out Zach. From the FAQs:

    It is extremely secure. Traffic passes through separate channels; visitor and home-user traffic are separated. From a security perspective, it is as if they have separate networks connecting them to the Internet. This ensures that visitors cannot use BT FON to connect directly to the local home-user network (or vice versa). It also means that all visitor network activity and all home-user network activity are clearly distinguished and attributed to the correct user, ensuring that home users cannot be blamed for the activities of visitors (or vice versa).

  10. Avatar of Everton
    Everton October 4, 2007 at 3:23 pm #

    I’ve worked it out Zach. From the FAQs:

    It is extremely secure. Traffic passes through separate channels; visitor and home-user traffic are separated. From a security perspective, it is as if they have separate networks connecting them to the Internet. This ensures that visitors cannot use BT FON to connect directly to the local home-user network (or vice versa). It also means that all visitor network activity and all home-user network activity are clearly distinguished and attributed to the correct user, ensuring that home users cannot be blamed for the activities of visitors (or vice versa).

  11. Chris October 4, 2007 at 3:51 pm #

    will be interesting to see how many people opt in

  12. Chris October 4, 2007 at 4:51 pm #

    will be interesting to see how many people opt in

  13. Zath October 4, 2007 at 8:23 pm #

    Now that’s good to hear, looks like BT have been doing some forward thinking in that area – sounds like a great idea to boost the UK’s wifi network then!

  14. Zath October 4, 2007 at 9:23 pm #

    Now that’s good to hear, looks like BT have been doing some forward thinking in that area – sounds like a great idea to boost the UK’s wifi network then!

  15. mauritian blog October 5, 2007 at 8:01 am #

    This is what we can say e-sharing. :)

  16. mauritian blog October 5, 2007 at 9:01 am #

    This is what we can say e-sharing. :)

  17. Make Money Online October 6, 2007 at 10:36 am #

    Its great to have free access but what does BT get out of it. Will it really increase their subscriber base? But there may not be enough bandwidth to share in high traffic areas.

  18. Make Money Online October 6, 2007 at 11:36 am #

    Its great to have free access but what does BT get out of it. Will it really increase their subscriber base? But there may not be enough bandwidth to share in high traffic areas.

  19. Everton October 6, 2007 at 5:43 pm #

    It helps Bt justify the premium for their broadband service, as well as attracting new subs/lowering churn.

  20. Avatar of Everton
    Everton October 6, 2007 at 6:43 pm #

    It helps Bt justify the premium for their broadband service, as well as attracting new subs/lowering churn.

  21. abhishek October 7, 2007 at 3:53 am #

    its quite impressive and i just wish it comes to my country quite soon too.

  22. abhishek October 7, 2007 at 4:53 am #

    its quite impressive and i just wish it comes to my country quite soon too.

  23. Helmut blockheizkraftwerk August 19, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    nice!