Plume, a mesh Wi-Fi hardware startup backed by Comcast, is now requiring customers that buy its hardware to also sign up for a $60 annual subscription for software that manages the wireless signal within a home to ensure speedy connectivity, according to this report. While other Wi-Fi startups have introduced subscription software options, Plume is the first to require a subscription in order to use its hardware.
This might be an attempt to emulate the business model of Cisco’s Meraki wireless unit, which sells hardware together with cloud-based software that companies use to manage large numbers of devices, among other tasks. Cisco likes the Meraki model so much that it has tried applying it to other parts of its networking hardware business. But consumer Wi-Fi is far less complex, so it’s unclear how much value Plume can offer in consumer-grade wireless management software. And it is likely that at some Plume customers won’t take kindly to being forced into buying subscriptions.
There are two likely scenarios for how this will play out: Plume will reverse course and make the subscription optional, or the startup will exit the ultra-competitive Wi-Fi hardware market entirely to focus on Wi-Fi management software.