I’ve been running a couple of FON Wi-Fi Hotspots for a few months now with mixed success.
The idea behind FON is that you share your home or work Broadband connection wirelessly so that passers by who are members of the FON network (either paying for a subscription, or sharing their own broadband and thus getting access for free as a reward) have thousands of hotspots worldwide they can casually use. The connection is securely kept apart from your own LAN and you can determine how much bandwidth the end users can receive.
Since installation, the hotspot here at Tubb Towers in Birmingham has received a sum total of… 1 visitor. This is unsurprising, as Weoley Castle is not exactly known as a high tech hub and I don’t live on a Main Road where many casual web-browsers may drive by.
The hotspot at my house in Lowton near Warrington is a different matter though. I fitted it with a high-gain antennae pointing at the busy crossroads at a main road, with a nearby pub and a local hotel that doesn’t have it’s own Wireless signal in it’s sights – so the signal is strong and the chances of casual users noticing the signal is higher. Since installation last year I’ve received between 5 and 10 users a month connecting to it – hardly massive traffic, but hopefully the signal has been useful to more than a few people who are travelling.
FON have taken two steps to try and encourage more users to it’s service. The first is allowing non-FON members up to 15 minutes free usage of any hotspot. More than ample to quickly grab your e-mails and do a quick search and I’ve seen a few of these types of users connecting to my hotspots each month.
The other more recently announced initiative is allowing any users to browse Google services (such as GMail and Google Maps) free at any FON hotspot. That’s not a bad way to encourage people to try the service out and comes as a direct result of Google’s investment in FON.