Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Finnish phone network operator expanding their Fon-like service overseas

Another one of those Interesting Things Which You Might Not Have Noticed: the Finnish phone network operator Saunalahti has a service called Wippies with the same idea as Fon. You order a free Wippies Wi-Fi router which lets all Wippies members access your home connection wirelessly, and you can access theirs, with the aim of building a free nationwide or worldwide service. It was initially just an experiment in Finland last year, but it's now expanding to cover other countries too, with Sweden, Denmark and most recently Estonia joining the network.

What's unusual about this is that the backer of Wippies is Saunalahti, which is one of Finland's biggest and most successful phone network operators. You'd think they would be nervous about people using their phones to make free Wi-Fi VOIP calls, after all many American and British networks have tried to disable VOIP and Wi-Fi in phones. By contrast, Saunalahti seems to be not only embracing Wi-Fi but actively giving away the necessary hardware and encouraging people to open their connection to others.

It's difficult to know how Saunalahti expects to make money from this, though. Perhaps they eventually intend to follow Fon's lead of offering Wippies access to non-members for a small fee, which is then shared between the owner of the router and the company itself.

You can click here to see a map of the location of current Wippies boxes. One or two are in countries where Wippies hasn't officially launched yet, which perhaps indicates tests for future expansion?

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