Three years ago, aiming to create a global wireless network, he founded FON, a company based in Madrid that wants to unlock the potential power of the social Internet. FON’s gamble is that Internet users will share a portion of their wireless connection with strangers in exchange for access to wireless hotspots controlled by others.
The swaps, in theory, would allow “Foneros” to have ubiquitous, global wireless access while traveling for business or pleasure. But despite $55.2 million in backing from such corporate heavyweights as Google and BT, the former British Telecom, as well as newer enterprises like Skype and a handful of venture capital firms, FON and Mr. Varsavsky are still missing a crucial ingredient: scale.
At the moment, there are just 830,000 registered Foneros around the world, and only 340,000 active Wi-Fi hotspots run FON software. Because it’s built upon the concept of sharing Wi-Fi access, FON works well only if there are Foneros everywhere.