Deutsche Telekom flirts with crowdsourced Wi-Fi through Croatian Fon deal

So, is Deutsche Telekom planning to invest in Fon or isn’t it? As my colleague Kevin Fitchard has pointed out, it would be a smart move given the potential for offloading cellular data traffic to Wi-Fi, but we still don’t know whether the rumors will turn out to be true.
What we do now know, though, is that Hrvatski Telekom, the leading Croatian ISP that is majority-owned by Deutsche Telekom(s dt), has just launched a Fon tie-in. The offer was revealed today, according to local blog Netocratic. I’ve asked DT whether this is a precursor to rollouts in other countries, but they declined to comment.
Fon is a crowdsourced Wi-Fi network that came out of Spain half a dozen years ago. The deal is this: if you hook up a Fon device to your router and share a segment of your bandwidth wirelessly with others, you become a ‘Fonero’ and you get to use other people’s connections for free when you’re on the move. (In some cases you can also take a cut of the fee non-Foneros pay for using your connection, but that doesn’t seem to be happening here.)
The idea has really taken off when ISPs are involved — ISPs’ terms and conditions tend to forbid the sharing of connections, so it helps when they buy into the idea. BT was the first big win for Fon back in 2007, in an extensive arrangement that also saw the U.K. provider become an investor in Fon.
In the case of Hrvatski Telekom, customers who take up the offer will be gaining access to Fon’s 7.8 million hotspots around the world, and Foneros from elsewhere will now find more places to log on when visiting Croatia.
However, there seems to be no indication of Fon’s network integrating with Deutsche Telekom’s own, extensive hotspot network in quite as deep a way as happened with BT(s bt) — with the British operator, Fon was so tightly integrated with BT’s OpenZone network that the two services got rebranded as one (BT Wi-Fi) last year. That probably makes the Hrvatski Telekom deal a bit more low-level, like those Fon has struck with other European carriers such as SFR, KPN and MTS.
Still, it’s a first for Deutsche Telekom, and it could very well be the precursor to deeper involvement with the scheme. After all, the German giant has a track record of using its Croatia operations as a testbed, most recently for its TeraStream cloud-based IP network architecture.