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12 October 2020

Plume keeps its place in Comcast’s WiFi line-up with second generation Pods

Plume has recently been pitching itself as a consumer experience management (CEM) platform for service providers, rather than a mesh WiFi vendor in the mold of AirTies. However, its WiFi access points continue to be central to Comcast’s xFi service.

Plume was behind the first generation of xFi Pods from Comcast, powered by 2×2 WiFi silicon from Qualcomm, and the new generation is also based on Plume’s SuperPod design.

The initial task Plume was handed by Comcast in 2018 was not only to develop a software agent running on the home gateway itself, to manage and collect KPI data for each connected xFi Pod, but also adapt it for the new Xfinity DOCSIS 3.1 gateways running Quantenna 8×8 MIMO chipsets.

Comcast claims demand for xFi Pods has doubled since March, so the cable giant has responded with a beefed-up version boasting two times faster speeds compared to the first generation of xFi devices. Just one xFi Pod is recommended for a 3-4 bedroom home, or two for larger homes than that.

Comcast was initially shipping packs of three or six for the first generation devices, although fewer devices won’t unfortunately come at any discount to subscribers, as a single second generation xFi Pod costs $119, the same as a first-gen 3-pack, while a second-gen two-pack costs $199, equal to a first-gen 6-pack.

Comcast advises that the xFi Gateway should be centrally located within a home, while a lone Pod should be installed at the home’s farthest reach.

A reduction in the number of physical Pods required is thanks to the development of a new tri-band WiFi radio capable of speeds north of 500Mbps, where a third channel can be a useful feature for backhaul. In the case of a multi-AP mesh network system within a large premises, the second 5 GHz band acts as a dedicated communications line between the two routers to speed up the entire system, by as much as 180% over dual-band configurations in some cases.

An advantage of having a third band, with 4×4 WiFi 6, is that it provides a dedicated backhaul to ensure faster speeds around the home. However, in the press release, there was no mention of whether these second generation xFi Pods support WiFi 6, to tie in with Comcast’s xFi Advanced Gateway supporting WiFi 6 devices, which launched in January.

The hexagonal shape of Comcast’s xFi Pods also remains, as does Plume’s involvement in Comcast’s WiFi roadmap for the foreseeable future.