Fon and Deutsche Telekom hope to cover Germany with Wi-Fi

The deal will also be a boon for current Fon users that vacation in Germany

German operator Deutsche Telekom is joining forces with Fon to help expand its network coverage, as it does its best to keep up with growing data volumes.

The offering is called "Wlan to go" and will be rolled out during the summer. The goal is to offer more than 2.5 million additional hotspots by 2016, according to Deutsche Telekom.

The partnership with Fon is a good fit with the operator's network expansion strategy, as it allows Deutsche Telekom to move some of the traffic away from the cellular networks. The "astonishing increase in data traffic" calls for improvements of existing networks as well as the construction of new ones, it said.

The principle of Fon and Deutsche Telekom's upcoming service is that users who share their home Wi-Fi network using a Fon-compatible wireless router are allowed to access wireless hotspots shared by other Fon users. Users that open up their network will also get access to Deutsche Telekom's regular hotspots.

For Fon, the deal with the German operator is a big victory, as it gives the company a stamp of approval.

"We have been looking for the right partner in Germany," Fon CEO and founder Martin Varsavsky said.

Fon now looks forward to blanket Germany with Wi-Fi, and the fact that Deutsche Telekom has a big fixed network will help, according to Varsavsky. The company already has between 5,000 and 6,000 hotspots in Germany, he said.

In addition to Germany, "Wlan to go" will also be rolled out in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary later this year, Deutsche Telekom said.

The Fon network currently consists of more than 8 million so-called Fon spots. In Europe, Fon is present in Great Britain, France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Croatia. So, users from England will be able to access those networks while on vacation. There is also a big Fon community in Brazil, which German football fans now can access next year at the FIFA World Cup, Deutsche Telekom said.

Deutsche Telekom is also working with American Airlines and Turkish Airlines to offer Wi-Fi on planes. For users that prefer to travel by train, the operator is expanding coverage there, as well. By the end of 2012, 5,200 railroad kilometers will have Wi-Fi coverage, compared to today's 3,000 kilometers. About 255 high-speed ICE (Intercity-Express) trains will also be turned into hotspots.

All this underlines how important Wi-Fi is to Deutsche Telekom. The technology is absolutely essential to keep growing data volumes under control, it said.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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