The WiFi Router that Killed WiFi Everywhere

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Like the song, “Video Killed the Radio Star”, it looks like the WiFi router may kill the WiFi network. Let me explain.

First, congrats to Iurgi and the guys at FON (where I used work) for the new La Fonera 2.0, a WiFi router that also doubles as a remote downloader, allowing you to upload or download files independently of your computer. In other words, you can upload or download files to and from the Internet without slowing your computer down or even turning it on.

What does this have to do with FON, the WiFi sharing network? FON’s entire raison d’être is to give users free, ubiquitous WiFi access throughout the world. The idea was that users, by contracting for DSL at home, should also have access to the Internet whenever they are away from home. This was to be achieved by installing FON’s special WiFi router – the La Fonera – that permitted users to share their WiFi connection with other users, thus creating a ubiquitous, user-generated WiFi network. The problem was that the network wasn’t growing fast enough, and the existing network was unreliable (users turned off routers when not using them and there was a limited network to connect to).

As a solution to the problem, the La Fonera 2.0 was intended to jump-start the FON network by getting more people to (i) install a WiFi sharing router and (ii) keep that router online even when away from home. Here comes the irony:

Recently, WiFi has been losing out to 3G as many Internet service and telephony providers now offer reliable and affordable “pay for Internet at home, get Internet for free everywhere” plans. Nevertheless, the argument in favor of WiFi and against 3G is that 3G is fine for email and surfing the Internet, but is too slow for uploading and downloading larger files (movies, photos, music, etc).

A device like the La Fonera 2.0, by providing an alternative channel for the heftier traffic, actually reinforces the supremacy of 3G as the preferable resource for on-the-go Internet access. So what was originally intended to save FON’s WiFi network could actually destroy the need for such a network. If successful, the La Fonera 2.0 would mean that there is no longer a need for the WiFi-dependent heavy traffic when roaming. You could even remotely access your home WiFi via 3G.

Ironically, the La Fonera 2.0 puts WiFi back in the home while keeping 3G on the street, rendering the WiFi network obsolete.

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Filed under Digressions, FON

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