How to: Set Up a FON Spot

By Eric Geier

April 25, 2008

A step-by-step guide to joining the international league of Foneros who provide one another with free, broadband Wi-Fi access via FON spots at their homes or businesses.

FON is a wireless Internet sharing community based upon a concept known as social Wi-Fi networking. People share their wireless Internet from within their home or business, with other FON (pronounced “fawn”) users. In return they get free access at all the other FON Spots throughout the World and even have the chance to make some money. Once someone shares their wireless Internet by installing and configuring a FON Spot router, they’re called a Fonero.

 People traveling within range of a FON Spot can connect for free unlimited usage if they, too, are Foneros. However, if the person is an Alien, a non-Fonero, he or she must view an advertisement and can only receive free access for 15 minutes. Otherwise they can purchase FON Passes for ad-free access for 24 hours.

 

FON profile types

Foneros can opt-in as either as a Bill or a Linus. Bills receive 50% of the revenue from FON Passes purchased and advertisements viewed by Aliens at their FON Spots. Any earnings are sent to their PayPal account. Foneros that choose to be a Linus, simply op-out out of the revenue sharing program—everything else remains the same.

 

How is FON secure

When the official FON Spot router (the La Fonera or La Fonera+) is used, two network names (SSIDs) are broadcasted; one for the public access (FON_AP) and another for the Foneros’s private access (MyPlace). These network names are essentially totally different networks, separated by a virtual LAN (VLAN) feature. This way, FON Spot users can’t communicate with computers on the private network name, and vice versa. This feature makes it possible to have two separate networks using a single Internet connection, all from one wireless router.

 

If a supported router is turned into a FON Spot with a firmware upgrade, only the public network name will be broadcasted, however. Since the Foneros won’t have a secured and encrypted network name to connect to, turning a supported router into a FON Spot is best only when there’s already a wireless router on the network.

 

For example, say you already have a wireless router connected to your Internet connection for your private network. If you want to convert a supported router (that you may have lying around or find cheaper than the official FON routers), you can hook it into the back of your private router. This way you’ll have your secure access from the existing router, and the public will receive access from the FON Spot router you created.

 

Hardware requirements

Of course, since becoming a FON Spot involves sharing your Internet, so you must have a high-speed Internet connection, such as DSL or cable, with a modem. This is the only requirement to become a FON Spot, other than having to buy or create your own FON Spot router.

 

If you are going to connect the FON Spot router directly to your Internet modem, you should keep in mind that your modem must have an Ethernet port, and not be a USB only modem. The Ethernet port is required so you can connect the modem directly to your FON Spot router.

 

FON Step-by-step

 

Step 1: Join FON

The first step is to join FON, whether you want to become a Fonero and share your Internet, or to remain an Alien to use FON Spots.

 

Step 2: Acquire a FON Spot Router

As touched on earlier, you have two ways to get the FON Spot router:

  • Purchase an official FON wireless router (the La Fonera or La Fonera+), produced and sold by FON.
  • Download and upload the FON firmware to a supported wireless router for free.

 

If you’re purchasing the La Fonera or La Fonera+ from FON, you can continue with this tutorial when you have the router in hand. If you are uploading the FON firmware to a supported wireless router, you can refer to another tutorial (Converting a Wireless Router into a FON Spot later this month). Then you can come back to this tutorial and continue with the next step.

 

Step 3: Install and Configure Your FON Spot

Whether you purchased an official FON router or you’ve created your own, here’s how to configure a FON Spot:

 

  1. Connect the FON router to your Internet connection and power on.

 

If you are connecting the FON Spot router directly to your Internet modem, connect an Ethernet cable from the Internet/WAN port on the router to the Ethernet port on the modem. If you are connecting the FON Spot router to your existing router, connect an Ethernet cable from the FON router’s Internet/WAN port to an available Ethernet port on your existing router that’s connected to the modem.

 

  1. Connect to your FON Spot.

 

When viewing the available wireless network list on your computer you should see a network name FON_AP. This is the network name (SSID) for the public access that people will connect to when they want to use your Internet. If you are using an official FON router, you should also see a network named My Place. This is your separate private secured wireless connection to the Internet through the FON router. Your unique pre-configured encryption key for the private network should have been included with your FON router, or on the router itself. When you connect to the private network, you’ll have to input this key into your computer before you can connect.

 

If you are setting up the La Fonera+, you want to connect to the My Place network name to register and configure the FON Spot. However if you are setting up the La Fonera, you need to connect to the FON_AP network name.

 

If you are using your own wireless router, you will probably only see the public network. If this is the case, you can connect to the FON_AP network name, or plug your computer into the router with an Ethernet cable.

 

  1. Configure your Internet connection, if needed.

 

If you are connecting the FON Spot directly to your modem, you may have to configure the router with your Internet connection information. This is required if your Internet connection uses anything other than DHCP. For example, like with DSL connections that require login information or if you have a static IP address, you’ll need to configure the FON Spot router with your Internet settings. To do this, enter the IP address (192.168.10.1) of your FON Spot router into your Web browser. Login into with the default username and password (which is admin), find the Internet Connection settings, configure as needed, and save the settings.

 

If you are connecting the FON Spot to another router, you’ll probably be fine not configuring any Internet settings. However if you’re using static IP addresses for your existing router, you need to go in the FON Spot router and configure a static IP address. To do this, enter the IP address (192.168.10.1) of your FON Spot router into your Web browser. Login in with the default username and password (which is admin), find the Internet Connection settings, configure a static IP address as needed, and save the settings. Don’t forget to input your existing private router’s IP address as the Default Gateway and DNS Server.

 

  1. Register your FON Spot.

 

If you are setting up the La Fonera+, you need to open your Web browser and go to http://registerlafonera.fon.com. Then you can click the register button, login with the FON account you created earlier, and fill out the registration form.

 

If you are setting up the La Fonera or your own wireless router, you should open your Web browser, which should redirect you to the FON Access Portal. If it doesn’t redirect you, go to http://wifi.fon.com. Then you can login with the FON account you created earlier and fill out the registration form.

 

When registering, you’ll specify the location where the FON Spot will be set up, your desired profile (Linus or Bill), and any other settings. Completing the registration should activate more settings in your user account.

 

  1. Configure additional settings.

 

When you are signed into your account on FON’s Web site, you can click Configure your FON Router; where you can change the following settings:

 

·        Locate your FON Router: Here can change the location information of your FON Spot, including placing the indicator on the map. Plus if it is set up in a public place (not your home), you can choose that option and pick the type of public place.

·        Settings: In this section you can limit the amount of bandwidth you would like to share. This way other people won’t use up all of your Internet connection’s speed. Plus here you can change the extension (what’s after the FON_) for the public network name. You may want to use something that lets the public know where the FON Spot is located; for example the name of a business, your street, or a close intersection. Here you can also change the router’s password.

·        Friends and Family: You can create accounts for your friends and family (or even yourself). These accounts will have unlimited guest access to your FON Spot, using the public network name.

 

  1. Reboot your FON Spot.

 

It may take some time before your router is automatically updated with setting changes, but you can force an update by rebooting your router. Simply pull the power cord from the back of the router, and plug it back in.

 

Step 4: Personalize your FON Spot.

If you don’t personalize your FON Spot, people that connect to the public network name will see the default FON content. However, you can somewhat personalize your FON Spot portal page, in the Personalize your FON Spot section when you’re logged into your FON account:

 

  • Web site (for free): You can input a Web site address that users have unlimited access to. A link for this site will be shown on the FON Spot portal page that people see when they connect to the public network name. This would be a great way to promote your personal or business Web site.
  • Welcome text: This message will also be on the FON Spot portal page, under the Web site link. This gives you a way to welcome users and talk about your interests, or if you are a business you can advertise what you have to offer.
  • YouTube URL: Here you can input the Web site address of your favorite YouTube video, to be shown on your portal page.
  • Fickr album/photo: This lets you display a Fickr album or single photo on the portal page. You input the URLs of existing content on Fickr.com or you could link to your own photos.

 

Just like when making configuration changes, it may take some time before your router is automatically updated with your personalization changes. You can, however, force an update by rebooting your router. Pull the power cord from the back of the router and plug it back in.

 

Membership has its privileges

Now you are a true Fonero and can, when you travel, you can enjoy free access to all the other FON Spots around the World. If you chose to be a Bill, keep your fingers crossed that you’ll have users bringing in some money.

 

Here are a few finial points to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you change the FON Spot router’s default password, so people can’t change your settings.
  • Make certain the network name you are going to connect to regularly for private use is encrypted.
  • If you have questions or you’re having a problem, you can seek help from FON’s FAQ or FON Boards.

 

Eric Geier is an author of many wireless networking and computing books including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting up Public Wireless Internet Access (Cisco Press 2006).

Originally published on .

Comment and Contribute
(Maximum characters: 1200). You have
characters left.