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19 January 2021

Plume and AirTies step up their home WiFi battle in 2021

Plume started the year with two new customer deals, signing Cogeco subsidiary Atlantic Broadband in the USA and Virgin Media in the UK, and now claims to support over 21m homes globally. Plume is building up a head of steam to try and close the gap on rival AirTies.

The latter claims to support over 30m homes, with AT&T and Sky being its flagship customers. Sky’s proximity to Plume’s own flagship client, Comcast, is cause for concern, should the leadership try a consolidation efficiency drive, but AirTies added Go Malta this week, via consulting from Divitel. Maltese homes are often stone-built and span over four floors, making mesh WiFi rather necessary.

While Plume likes to call its customers ‘smart homes’, most of them are unlikely to meet the criteria for a true smart household – one in which some level of automation actually happens, rather than merely providing the connectivity for a single Nest thermostat or even security system. Plume should, however, soon have more momentum here, as it signed a very interesting deal with Adtran back in April, concerning WiFi-based motion tracking, though the fruits of that partnership will not be ready yet.

The Virgin Media announcement appears to be a follow-up to the February 2020 announcement that Virgin’s parent, Liberty Global, had picked Plume to power its European operations. Liberty Global Ventures was an early investor in Plume, and this interest seems to have culminated in that deal.

Back then, the talk was of 11m mesh WiFi homes, and a couple of months later, with the Adtran deal, the number of homes was 16m. The number should quickly reach 26m, on the back of July’s win with J:Com in Japan, then pass the 31m mark on the back of the Virgin Media deal, and likely touch 35m once the rest of Liberty’s footprint is online. This would take it past AirTies’ current base, though AirTies has talked of hitting 50m homes in the next few years.

In the Atlantic Broadband announcement, the focus is on the cableco’s new WiFi Your Way service, which is powered by Plume’s HomePass offering. The new app is meant to guide customers through the installation of the SuperPods, the nodes that expand the reach of the original WiFi footprint. Atlantic Broadband uses TiVo set-tops, much like Virgin Media, and seems to have switched from Arris gear to the Hitron 4589 WiFi hardware.

“Home WiFi is the way customers most commonly experience our Internet service, so it must be the best it can be,” said Heather McCallion, VP of products and programming for Atlantic Broadband. “As in-home WiFi becomes increasingly important to our customers, their in-home networks must be reliable, fast and deliver the connectivity they need to work and learn from home. Now, through our partnership with Plume, Atlantic Broadband’s high capacity, fiber-rich network will be joined with a powerful in-home network to deliver a phenomenal WiFi experience with wall-to-wall coverage, personalized controls and superfast speeds up to 1 Gig.”