Forget Free WiFi, FON Wants To Knock Off Mobile Operators
from the wifi-hippies dept
A company called FON grabbed some blog publicity a little while ago with its plan to set up a global network of WiFi hotspots, letting people choose whether they wanted to be a "Linus", offering free access, or a "Bill", and charging for access. If you're a Linus, you also get free access to the rest of the network, if you're a Bill, you have to pay. Now, the company's founder is saying how he wants to create a ubiquitous network, and unseat mobile operators by letting people make VoIP calls over it. That sounds great, in theory, but a ubiquitious WiFi network is a vastly different animal than a cellular network when it comes to voice calls. It's doubtful that FON's network -- assuming it ever got enough coverage -- could support handoffs from one access point to another, making the system much more nomadic than mobile. Also, so many of these companies seem to be dramatically underestimating the effort involved in actually providing service to and supporting customers when it comes to voice telephony. Simply throwing up the network and pointing people to VoIP applications isn't enough. Who do customers call when something goes wrong? What sort of guarantees about service will they get, and from who? It's a problem that many of these VoIP companies are going to face, particularly ones that charge for service -- while keeping operations lean cuts costs, it also limits the customer service they can provide, which will eventually hit their uptake if they want to ever grow beyond early adopters.