FON Lands Time Warner Cable Deal

By Eric Griffith

April 23, 2007

The cable provider will let customers turn their broadband access into hotspots.

If you have a Time Warner Cable (TWC) modem in your home, you will soon be able to join the FON community, turning that connection into a hotspot (which they call FONspots).

Madrid, Spain-based FON has been pushing to work with more and more service providers, but this is the company's first deal with a U.S. company. Despite this, FON claims to have 60,000 members in the U.S. already. Time Warner has 6.6 million customers with high-speed data subscriptions.

This is an interesting turnaround for a provider like TWC, as it and most others have traditionally not been happy with the sharing of broadband connections.

Foneros, as FON community members are called, can get a special 802.11b/g wireless "social" router (the La Fonera), or flash the firmware of some existing wireless routers from Linksys and Buffalo Technology to make them part of the FON network. Foneros can also roam freely on other routers on the FON network; roaming users who aren't Foneros pay a small fee of around $2. 370,000 La Fonera routers have been shipped around the world -- at times, they've sold for as little as $5, and at one point been given away for free, to push the network expansion.

The La Fonera router actually uses two channels simultaneously -- one for sharing with others, and another for the owner so they can surf securely.

FON also has connection manager software for Nokia's Wi-Fi phones using the Symbian OS (the Nokia E60, E61, N80, N91, N92, N93 and N95), as well as the new Skype Wi-Fi VoIP phones from companies like Belkin, Netgear and SMC. Skype actually sells a bundle with the SMC Wi-Fi phone and a La Fonera router for $160. Skype is also a FON investor; so is Google.

There's no word on when or how TWC customers will get La Fonera routers.

MarketWatch reported last week that Time Warner, Inc. may be "thinking about reducing its cable holdings due to concerns about the industry's long-term future" -- maybe by as much as 84%. The cable division just started trading on the New York Stock Exchange on March 1, 2007, and is currently the parent company's biggest moneymaker. TWC operates in 27 states after acquiring part of the assets of bankrupt Adelphia Communications.



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