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30 April 2020

Adtran, Plume sign smart home service deal with WiFi motion tracking

Adtran and WiFi pioneer Plume have signed a partnership deal that will see Plume’s in-home capabilities integrated with Adtran’s Mosaic Subscriber Suite, which is offered to ISPs and operators to better manage customer relationships. The pair plan to launch “exciting new smart home services,” and for Adtran’s typical customers, as a telecommunications equipment vendor, this is a chance to expand into a stickier package offering.

Plume is riding something of a wave at the moment. Having enjoyed great success with its Comcast win, February saw Liberty Global pick Plume to power its European operations, following on from the Virgin Media UK operations. Back then, we knew Plume had around 10 million homes using its WiFi mesh technology, and said it had 300 million devices connected to its cloud platform. Those numbers were already moving upwards, but now Adtran should swell those further, and to that end, Plume is already saying 16 million homes and over 750 million connected devices. Adtran should only add to that.

Adtran makes more noise in our sister service Wireless Watch, selling equipment and services for mobile backhaul, optical networking, WAN access, and also to municipalities and utilities. In the Faultline realm, it has cable and offerings, as well as Passive Optical Networks (PON) systems, as well as some CPE equipment, mostly centered around Ethernet, WiFi, and residential gateways.

With the Plume deal, Adtran is bringing the Mosaic Subscriber Suite to the table, rather than its equipment. Adtran pitches the offerings as an “all-in-one subscriber insight and management software that offers cloud-based tools to make device installation, activation, and service restoration ultra-efficient, while improving the overall subscriber experience.” Essentially, this is software to help ISPs with subscriber management.

So, with Plume, Adtran can better sell these services to communications service providers (CSPs) that have or want to invest in the Plume WiFi equipment ecosystem – with Adtran providing backend software, and perhaps the home gateway too.

Plume will be integrating its Customer Experience Management Platform with Adtran’s Mosaic, and this combination is promising a “single pane of glass” view of the WiFi conditions inside customer homes. Plume’s OpenSync stack can also act as a go-between, for CPE that is not using Adtran hardware.

One of the more prominent features will be the ability to detect motion inside the house based on the analysis of radio waves, something that Celeno made waves with, when it debuted the capability back in July 2019. Called WiFi Doppler, Celeno was pitching the technology as a way of tracking human posture, gestures, and even breathing, for means of tracking reactions to targeted content on televisions, personalizing recommendations, and also for home security systems. Faultline thought the feature quite unsettling, and doubted many consumers would be happy to let it into their homes.

There are practical uses for these capabilities, but they have to be handled sensitively. If Plume has managed to provide whole-home coverage using its hexagonal mesh nodes, then it should be able to track the movements of occupants within the home. This would let it control lighting and HVAC capabilities, without the need for a camera, nor an on-person device, and on the already installed equipment – so the end-users don’t have to add occupancy sensors to their homes either.

From the smart home perspective, knowing where people are inside the home is a foundational requirement. Home comfort and security are two of the main smart home use cases, and with Plume and Adtran, a CSP would be able to offer those services to its customers. Deutsche Telekom has found its Magenta smart home service to be one of its stickiest offerings, and the motion tracking technology could enable the CSP to build an additional service that makes them much more difficult to churn away from – without much in the way of capex and opex increases.

This then opens the door for that CSP to sell more smart home devices to the customers, through their retail channels and their financial agreements, adding smart thermostats, cameras, and lighting systems onto the broadband and TV bundle at a lower monthly price than the cost of buying them off-the-shelf. In this manner, the smart home becomes the quad or quint-play offering that boosts ARPU and margins, while also cutting churn. However, that does rather depend on the CSP not bungling the launch and support, and that is never guaranteed.