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Bell Canada Picks Plume for Whole-Home WiFi Service

Bell Canada has selected Plume to help power a new subscription-based whole-home WiFi service that features an app that helps customers manage and configure their home networks and WiFi “Pods” that work in tandem with the main gateway to spread WiFi signals to all corners of the home.

Bell Canada is offering a four-pack of WiFi Pods for $5 per month, and $2 per month for each additional Pod. Those Pods, small WiFi access points devices that plug directly into power outlets, have been integrated with Bell Canada’s Home Hub 3000 modem/gateway.

Bell Canada has underpinned the offering with a management app for iOS and Android mobile devices that lets users update and manage their WiFi network name, share login info with guests, and utilize parental controls.

The service provider is offering the new service initially to qualifying customers in Ontario and Quebec, with plans underway to extend it to Atlantic Canada and Manitoba. Bell Canada ended Q3 2017 with 3.76 million high-speed internet customers.

Fahri Diner, Plume’s CEO, characterized the deal as a “watershed moment” not just because it involves a major ISP, but also because it involves a major ISP utilizing a cloud-driven, service-based model for whole-home WiFi.

“When we created Plume, that was our fantasy…our belief that whole-home WiFi should be a service,” he said. “People shouldn’t have to worry about which hardware to buy. Hardware should be part of the service.”

Plume’s general guidance is one WiFi Pod per room. “We think of them like lightbulbs…you put them in every room,” Diner said.

ISPs such as Cox Communications (for its Panoramic WiFi offering), Midco (for an offering with AirTies), and Blue Ridge Communications (for a product called HomeFi that features compact WiFi access points from eero) have also adopted subscription-based, service-oriented models for their respective premium whole-home WiFi products.

Plume designs the WiFi Pods, but licenses those designs to CE companies, including Sagemcom, which also makes Bell Canada’s Home Hub 3000 gateway.

Comcast, an investor in Plume, recently began to roll out “xFi Pods” in Chicago and Boston, with a national deployment set to follow soon. But rather that offering those devices as a service, Comcast has been selling them in packs of three for $119 and in packs of six for $199.

RELATED: Comcast Starts Rollout of ‘xFi Pods’ to Boost Whole-Home WiFi

Diner said Bell Canada’s service approach represents an “incredible bargain” just for the WiFi Pods alone, noting that increased volumes for them – via Comcast and other service providers not yet announced – are helping to drive down the costs.

Though Plume’s primary approach is to license its hardware designs and not center on retail, Plume does sell its Pods directly online -- $179 for a three-pack, $329 for a six-pack, and $69 for each add-on.

Diner said Plume has other tier 1 operators that are in the process of deploying the vendor’s product/platform.

Bell Canada is also the latest major ISP to launch a whole-home WiFi product just this week.

AT&T has tapped AirTies for a mesh-based solution that includes network management software and Smart Wi-Fi Extenders, which are being sold by the carrier for $34.99 each and work with AT&T’s BGW or 5268 WiFi Gateway.