Taiwanese networking vendor Accton Technology Corp is reported to be close to announcing a deal with community WiFi developer FON SA to manufacturer wireless equipment for the Spanish company.
In February Madrid-based FON made the headlines by announcing the completion of a $21.7m Series A funding round that included Google and Skype as investors. At the same time Mike Volpi, VP of business development at Cisco, became a board member.
The company’s business model involves its software being downloaded to a WiFi router (provided by Cisco subsidiary Linksys) enabling free or paid for access to the internet to third parties who are, like the owner, a member of the FON community, or foneros.
Alongside the Linus members (who allow free access) and Bills (who charge), there are also Alien foneros, who only pay to access the network without owning infrastructure, with 50% of the revenue from them shared with the Bills.
Martin Varsavsky, the founder and CEO of FON, is an Argentine-born entrepreneur with a string of businesses, if not success stories, to his name. They include US alternative carrier Viatel, which ultimately went bust; Spanish alternative carrier Jazztel, which is hanging on by the skin of its teeth under a big debt burden; and Ya.com, a portal he eventually sold to Deutsche Telekom. Whether FON will enjoy greater success remains to be seen.
Local press reports in Taiwan say Varsavsky is scheduled to be in the capital, Taipei, on June 7, when the deal with Accton, which is based in that city, is expected to be signed and formally unveiled.
If this information is correct, it raises the question how any relationship with Accton will affect FON’s hitherto dealings with Linksys. Perhaps the putative Accton deal will be for the Asian market while Linksys will continue to supply the routers in Europe and the Americas.