When serial entrepreneur Martin Varsavky launched Fon in late 2005, his goal was to blanket the world with easily-accessible, crowdsourced Wi-Fi. While the service hasn’t quite made it everywhere yet, Fon has just announced that they now have over 5 million hotspots in operation across the globe.
It’s a pretty impressive number considering that other big Wi-Fi networks like Boingo advertise “over 400,000” hotspots in their network, but it’s made even more notable when you consider each of Fon’s hotspots is essentially a person who decided to share their own Internet connection.
The signup process is a novel one — in order to access the full list of Fon hotspots out there, users have to share their own Internet connection first with the help a special wireless router. Non-sharers looking to get their own wireless Internet fix can take part in the fun too, but it comes at a cost — they have to pay a fee in order to access a Fon hotspot, part of which ends up with the hotspot’s owner.
Much of Fon’s growth can be attributed to strategic partnerships with companies like SFR, British Telecom, and Belgacom, all of whom have folded support for Fon’s network into their consumer-facing hardware. With other partnerships in the works, Varsavky says on his blog that he expects Fon’s growth to continue unabated:
“This year, I predict that Fon will grow its number of hotspots by at least 50 percent, so there is lots of work ahead to make sure this happens.”