xfinity xFi is a new user interface to control the Wi-Fi for Comcast customers with its xFi Wireless Gateway or xFi Advanced Gateway. It uses an iOS or Android app to control Wi-Fi and other router features including internet pause, user accounts with assigned devices, internet access schedules and network-join alerts.
One of the two supported gateways is not new; Comcast said the xFi-enabled device that is in 10 million homes today will now be called the “xFi Wireless Gateway.” The new xFi Advanced Gateway will be used to provision 1 gigabit service and, according to Comcast, be "capable of delivering gigabit speeds over Wi-Fi and supports Xfinity Voice, home security and automation applications".
The more interesting news buried toward the end of the announcement is that Comcast plans to launch "no-configuration, adaptive xFi pods that can be paired with either the xFi Wireless Gateway or the xFi Advanced Gateway". Although Comcast didn't specifically say it would be using Plume's Wi-Fi pods for this, it heavily implied it by mentioning its investment in Plume in the announcement.
Axios reported an SEC filing about a month ago that disclosed Comcast took a $27M stake in Plume and a seat on its board.
This is certainly great news for Plume, which was a latecomer to the mesh Wi-Fi marketplace. Now that mainstream Wi-Fi router makers like NETGEAR, Linksys, TP-Link and ASUS are either shipping "mesh" Wi-Fi products or soon will, the outlook for the startups that were first to market with mesh Wi-Fi is a lot riskier.
It will be interesting to see how Plume based Wi-Fi extension works out for Comcast, especially given Comcast's emphasis on pushing its 100+ Mbps services. Plume's pods rely on many bandwidth-sapping hops to move data around its mesh using lower power 2x2 radios shared between front and backhaul.
Customers may be happy to get Wi-Fi in locations they formerly could not after plugging in Comcast/Plume's pods, but not so much after they find Wi-Fi throughput nowhere near what they're paying big bucks to Comcast for.