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Qualcomm Funds WiFi Upstart Fon

Ray Le Maistre

WiFi access services specialist Fon Wireless has raised $14 million (€10.3 million) in a new round of funding led by comms chip giant Qualcomm.

Fon Wireless Ltd. , which has developed an international network of 12 million shared WiFi access points in 1,000 cities by striking partnerships with fixed, mobile, and cable network operators, has been growing rapidly during the past year: In 2013 it announced partnerships with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), French operator SFR , and Dutch incumbent KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN). (See AT&T Strikes WiFi Deal With Fon and DT Preps Wi-Fi Push With FON.)

Now Fon has raised a new round of funds to expand further in the US, form relationships and build its business in new markets, and develop new hotspot technology and WiFi applications for small businesses. The latest round takes Fon's total funding, since it was founded in 2006 by telecom entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky, to more than €60 million ($81.4 million).

The funding from Qualcomm Ventures further expands Fon's relationship with Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), as Fon is basing the development of a new WiFi router (which incorporates a music-sharing application) on a chipset from Qualcomm Atheros . That new router is set to be launched in the first half of this year.

In addition, Qualcomm Atheros is integrating Fon's protocol stack into the software development kit (SDK) for its chipsets, making it easier for router manufacturers to build support for Fon into their products.

As well as Qualcomm Ventures, existing Fon investors Index Ventures , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Coral Group, Atomico Ventures , and Deutsche Telekom also participated in the round.

Fon, which was spotlighted in Light Reading's recent Top 10 Carrier WiFi Movers & Shakers feature, expects to have 35 million WiFi access points in its network by 2016.

For more on Fon's model, watch this video interview with Fon COO Alex Puregger.

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
4/12/2014 | 10:33:43 AM
Clippng Path Business
Clippng Path

You can also try selling things on ebay, blogging check out problogger.net for tips, or setting up a niche website of your own.

User Rank: Light Sabre
1/22/2014 | 1:35:08 PM
Re: Scale game
That's very possible.

Though I wonder how many ISPs would follow Comcast's lead and simply deploy similar concepts of their own?
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
1/22/2014 | 10:27:41 AM
Re: Scale game
Its Foneros are of course really important, but it seems like their bigger play is with operator partnerships. That's the quickest way to grow its customer base. I bet they'll start do more with ads and services for revenue generation. I've asked Qualcomm about the social music angle of the partnership. Not sure what that will look like, but there might be some extra money there?
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/21/2014 | 9:53:13 AM
Re: Scale game
Their recent resurgance in the press has been interesting, as somebody (like you) that has been watching this company since they were handing out old Linksys routers with custom firmware.

Seems like there was a huge bang to start with, a long period where the focus was overseas to minimal effect, and now a massive new PR push in the States.

Despite all the noise, I don't see a lot of actual users signing up to use this service, especially with the ever-increasing availability of free Wi-Fi and ubiquitous cell connections. Something to be said for perserverence to be sure though, I agree.
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/21/2014 | 1:20:09 AM
Re: Scale game
This sounds like what we referred to as vendor financing in the 90's.
User Rank: Blogger
1/20/2014 | 12:58:16 PM
Scale game
You have to admire the perseverance of the Fon team - it has taken them years to build up the trust of the telcos and other network operators to engage in partnerships.

But I wonder at what point does Fon become a ghoing concern as a business? THis is a real scale play -- the more people that sign up to be 'Foneros' the greater the reach and appeal of the service and the greater the potential revenues for Fon -- but when does Fon break even?

I'll be asking...

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