Review: Fonera 2.0n

Short Version
The Fonera 2.0n router essentially gives you free WiFi anywhere in the world for a one-time fee of $100. It may or may not work, but it’s worth a try.

If there’s one thing I hate about travel it’s paying for WiFi. WiFi, like air and a nice piece of sausage, is the birthright of every traveler from Spain to Texas yet free WiFi is almost impossible to find. Thankfully, FON and their new Fonera 2.0n router offer a way to get a free connection while giving something back to the community at large, namely free WiFi.

For those not sufficiently well-versed in FON, it’s kind of like Boingo for Communards. You buy a router and you automatically gain access to FON routers around the world – up to 700,000 in all. You can see a map of access points on the Fon website.

The device itself costs $99 and is a small four-port router with one Internet input. It runs at 801.11n speeds and can act as a 3G-to-WiFi converter with the right hardware. You can also connect a hard drive to create a NAS server.

When you’ve connected your router you log in type in a WPA key printed on the side of the device. You then can add all of your information including your YouTube, Facebook, and Picasa logins. Why? Because the router can take over your image and video uploads after you’ve completed them, offloading some of the upload time to the router itself. Want to download torrents? The Fonera box will do it for you while you sleep and it will save the downloads to the attached hard drive.

The coolest thing, however, is how it shares your WiFi. You have complete control over how much bandwidth you want to share and you even even share in the revenue generated by the share. When you turn on the router it starts two access points, a public one and a locked private one. The public one displays a pay wall for users, the same pay wall that you will use to gain free access when you’re travelling.

Bottom Line
The Fonera 2.0n is a compact little device and the mission – if not the actual implementation – is fresh and exciting. For about $100 you essentially have free WiFi all over the world. The service is only as good as its coverage, however, which makes this a sort of hippy-dippy free love stab at web access – noble but doomed to be popular with only a certain subset of the population. If you’re in an area with lots of students and other idealists, look for FON routers to be plentiful and useful. Wall Street? Probably not.

Regardless, it’s not expensive, there are plenty of great built-in features, and even if the FON dream fails you can still say that you’re supplying WiFi in the mode of “From each according to his DSL connection, to each according to his needs.”