A new model of Fon router with USB interface appears
In his blog, Fon founder Martin Varsavski has announced the newest version of the "La Fonera" mini router. Distribution of this new model is being restricted to developers for the time being. Dubbed the "Liberator", it now comes with a USB 2.0 interface allowing the device to make peripherals such as webcams, scanners and printers available across the network.
The main objective, however, is to connect USB storage devices. File sharing is already working in beta via Finder for Fonera 2.0 for Windows and Mac. The developers are already working on other applications such as a backup client, a modified version of the Azureus BitTorrent client, and on support for external UMTS modems.
The new functions are still far from production-ready. The Fon wiki contains a long list of to-dos that have to be completed before the firmware, which is based on the open-source distribution OpenWRT, is considered mature enough for end-users. It doesn't take much to push the hardware to its limits, either. It seems that the USB interface cannot supply enough current to power some devices. Fon therefore recommends plugging it into a USB hub with a separate power supply. The next step will be to design a faster WLAN interface and to make it draft-N capable - but that will take a while, says Varsavsky. The first 1,000 units of the Fonera 2.0 have been reserved for developers at a cost of just under €40 each, plus delivery. It remains to be seen when the Liberator will be available to the general public via the Fon Shop.
The business model being pursued by Spanish company Fon is based on building a global network of WLAN access points operated by private individuals. The key to this model is the special hardware. Fon users can connect the compact router to their DSL or other modem at home and so provide internet access to others via their system. In return, these "Foneros" receive free access via systems operated by other members of the community. The company claims that there are now already 1.1 million registered members, operating more than 400,000 access points. Unofficial statistics from Germany put the number of operational Fon routers there at over 26,000.
Since this story was written, Fon has stated that the new router still uses the same single-chip device as its predecessor, the Atheros AR2315, running at 180MHz with 8MB of Flash.