Marking its importance as a strategic investor and development partner for crowdsourced Wi-Fi service provider Fon, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) led the Madrid-based firm's latest fundraising round, which attracted $14 million total.
In addition, Qualcomm's Atheros subsidiary is working closely with the Wi-Fi sharing network on a new router "that combines social Wi-Fi with social music," Fon said. The router, based upon a Qualcomm Atheros chipset, will hit the market during this year's first half.
Qualcomm Atheros is also integrating Fon as a feature, available via SDK for its chipsets, which will make it easier for Wi-Fi router manufacturers using Qualcomm Atheros' chipsets to integrate Fon. This could play a crucial role in expanding the market for Fon's services.
"We are excited about our new relationship with Qualcomm, which is an amazing company and a leader in mobile data communication. By integrating Fon into Qualcomm Atheros' chipsets, more devices and systems will be automatically equipped to be part of Fon's global Wi-Fi network," said Martin Varsavsky, Fon's CEO.
"Fon's unique approach to crowd-sourcing Wi-Fi is going to play an increasingly instrumental role in the future of mobile data," said Miles Kirby, senior director for Qualcomm Ventures, Qualcomm's venture capital arm. "Fon fits perfectly into our vision to solving the increasing demand for data."
Other investors participating in Fon's latest funding round included existing investors Index Ventures, Google, Coral, Atomico and Deutsche Telekom.
Fon will use the funds to build out its nascent U.S. presence as well as expand its reach into new markets worldwide. It will also fund new product development, including a new Fon router and its newly developed invitation-only "WiFi for Business" service.
Fon, which encourages users to share their Wi-Fi router signal with others in exchange for free access to other Fon hotspots around the world, entered the U.S. market last fall. Its $59 Fonera router splits a gateway owner's Wi-Fi signal in two, with a private signal for the owner and a shared signal for other Fon members as well as the owner's guests. The two signals have different SSIDs.
Fon's footprint has expanded by more than half in the past year and now stands at over 12 million Wi-Fi hotspots. The company said Fon hotspots are present in more than 10 percent of households in countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Belgium. Fon expects to reach 35 million Wi-Fi hotspots by 2016.
Report: New roaming tech, more hotspots to drive Wi-Fi offloading
Turning home Wi-Fi into community hotspots: the ins and outs of a new trend
Gowex's shared Wi-Fi hotspot model employs social networking, advertising
Fon brings its shared Wi-Fi model to the U.S.
Lowenstein's View: Wi-Fi will be a bigger part of mobile future