I didn't know BT where doing this but they seem to have teamed up with FON (www.fon.com) to open up their users broadband routers into hotspots (I'll tell you the reason I discovered they were doing this in a sec). I took a bit of a better look into it and on the surface things look GOOD!
Basically the premise is that the routers have 2 networks: a public one and a private one. The private one acts as a normal secured network would do whilst the public one acts as an Internet only access hotspot for other FON users (security - according to them - seems to be OK).
I kinda like this idea, any BT Broadband user (or FON user) can now open themselves up as a hotspot to let other Foneros (the silly name FON gives its users) surf the net as they pass. In fact I just checked it out on the BT site and it seems there are over 10 hotspots within a couple of miles of home - a trend which seems to be mirrored across the country. The really nice thing that FON offers is global surfing: with the same free hotspots service across the globe (well most of the EU and US anyway) - for travelers (something I will be doing in the next few years) and the like it could be a handy service.
As far as I can tell there are 2 ways to get access to this cool global network:
- Get BT broadband and use their home hub router
- Buy a FON Fonera (or Fonera+) wireless router
I probably would go with the second one - for freedom. The Fonera+ goes for £39 which is a decent price for the specs and reviews of it seem to be positive. It even seems to update automatically, a great feature I would love to see in all routers!
One of the suggestions I did like was the Skype phone they also do: theoretically meaning you can keep your Skype going anywhere with a hotspot (in practice I guess I wouldn't trail around with it like a mobile but it could mean it is possible to take your phone on holiday etc.), no more need for a landline! The drawback is the phone costs £109 at the moment.
So all in all it seems a brilliant idea: everyone within the FON community can share and share alike.
With all of that said I have 3 major gripes, the last of which is just me being really bitchy ;)
(Yay a list!)
- First off they claim the Fonera router is all custom built / coded. Excellent. It occurs to me that they could have then changed the way the hotspots work. Currently you can just connect straight off and have to enter user details to continue. To me a better way would be to implement a new security system: where each Fonero has their own private key, they then connect to the hotspots using this key (the same as a private WEP key for example) and voila. This would mean I could easily get my new phone (that N81 I was going on about before) to use these spots. Not only would this make things cleaner all round it provides some important levels of encryption/security for everyone using the system!
- Bandwidth uses: what happens if people abuse your hotspots by streaming crap loads of content and destroying your bandwidth allowance - I can see it happening. I?m not sure if there is some cap or setting to stop this (I haven't dug around enough) but if there isn't it is a big concern.
- Why oh why is the whole WiFi standard so crap.. my Laptop keeps trying to connect to the nice BT/FON hotspot near me (which is how I found out about this) rather than my local router; I assume because it requires no passkey to get access, or whatever. As a result whenever I try to load a new web page it keeps loading the BT openzone login page. Grrrr. Implementing my first point would soon sort this out! Yes I know I could spend a little time stopping it from connecting but most users wont be able to and as more spots appear it would quickly become and annoying chore.
It does seem like a good idea: especially considering my comments from yesterday, about needing more hotspots, and that it takes the craze of web2.0/user generated content to the next level. I'm definitely going to look into it and maybe invest in a Fonera+.