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Virgin Media Offer Plume WiFi Boosting Security to All UK Homes

Monday, September 20th, 2021 (10:38 am) - Score 5,064
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Broadband ISP Virgin Media (VMO2) has today announced that they’re making Plume’s new HomePass smart home service available to all UK households (including those areas not yet covered by their network), which combines a WiFi 6 (802.11ax) based Mesh network boosting system with security features, such as Wi-Fi based motion detection.

The move follows Virgin Media’s January 2021 launch of their Intelligent Wi-Fi Plus service, which combined improvements to the firmware of their HUB 3.0 and 4.0 broadband routers with Plume’s smart home Mesh WiFi system in order to deliver improved wireless connectivity around the home (here).

By comparison, the new HomePass service, which can be taken for an annual charge of £99 and comes with one WiFi boosting SuperPod device as standard (additional pods start at £99 each – one-off), appears to give you some extra features. Aside from the addition of WiFi 6 support to their mesh networking solution, you also get device security, in-home motion sensing (this cleverly works by monitoring disturbances in the WiFi signal), device management and parental controls.

HomePass will also work to keep connected devices safe from unwanted ads, hacks or threats, including the seven most frequent types of cyber-attacks. It will alert users when connected devices such as smart speakers, baby monitors or doorbells exhibit “unusual behaviour,” such as trying to connect to new unknown connections – and put at-risk devices in quarantine to keep customers’ home network and sensitive information safe.

As usual, you’ll be able to manage all of this from a central app.

Sigrid van den Houte, VMO2’s Director of Products & Propositions (Fixed & FMC), said:

“By teaming up with Plume, we’re able to offer a smarter, faster, and safer WiFi experience to everyone – even people living in areas where our services aren’t yet available. With HomePass’ plug and play pods and host of smart home features, we’re excited to be transforming WiFi in homes around the country.”

You can of course get this independently of Virgin Media, but via that method a single WiFi 6 pod costs £159 (£99 with WiFi 5). On top of that, you’d also need to add a membership fee, which start at £8.25 per month for an annual membership. In other words, Virgin Media seem to be offering a better price, when the membership is combined with the included SuperPod.

However, we would like to know a bit more about how that WiFi based motion sensing system works, not least in dense urban areas like a large block of flats (i.e. can it tell the difference between somebody walking in the corridor just outside your flat vs somebody actually inside the flat near the front door?). Getting this right is important to avoid false positives.

UPDATE

You can in fact buy the kit direct from Plume’s website in GBP, but oddly they only make this selection visible in small print right at the bottom of their website, instead of the top. Corrected the pricing above.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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22 Responses
  1. Vincent says:

    do you need an active internet connection or can these work independantly of isp

    1. drevilbob says:

      They can be used with any ISP, virgin media is just the Uk reseller.

  2. zzing says:

    Do they claim they will use the Wifi 6 SuperPod, because a ‘SuperPod’ itself is just Wi-Fi 5 and $99.

    Plume devices have some pretty neat software in them that effectively balances a network continuously, so it’s always monitoring signal strength between devices. This is how the motion sensing works as described here, although for that you’d need a plume device per room: https://www.plume.com/homepass/blog/give-your-home-a-sixth-sense-with-plume-motion

    While Plume is an excellent meshed Wi-Fi system, it’s just way too overpriced. Both the hardware (these are only 2×2 devices) and the subscription to be a good enough deal. Pods need to be about $60 and the sub about $25/yr to be viable, but there should be an option to not have a sub. And still not a patch on a proper CAT 5 network powering multiple APs as meshing just doesn’t cut the mustard always…

    1. Jonny says:

      The Wi-Fi 6 pods are £30 for the first one and then £129 for each additional one, which I think is worth doing if you’re already considering this.

      They also have a 2.5Gbps and a 1Gbps ethernet interfaces.

  3. John Borisson says:

    Why don’t VM just use better hubs/routers? They already get £111 a month from me!

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Absolutely. Why isn’t the hub3 wifi6? Oh, I forgot its one of them crap Arris useless hubs isn’t it.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      The HUB 3.0 came out long before WiFi 6 was even an option. Heck, the HUB 4.0 came out before WiFi 6 was an option. We’ve only really started to see some affordable and standards compliant WiFi 6 kit this year.

  4. Name says:

    I have no idea what any of this means. God I feel old

    1. Ian Aitken says:

      More stable wi-fi connection at home.

      Better speeds, coverage and security.

      But I don’t know how much of a difference it actually makes, that’s what they’re saying

  5. Roger_Gooner says:

    It seems as if it might need a pod (connected to a power supply) for each room to get guaranteed WiFi throughout a property. It won’t be suitable for everyone especially as you’ve got to stump up £99pa for the HomePass subscription but I reckon it’s good to have another product in the market.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Seems like a complete scam to me. WTF planet are folks on thinking they need a subscription to get decent home wifi coverage?

    2. zzing says:

      It’s not a scam Buggerlugz, but it is ridiculous. You can read more on Plume here: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/05/mesh-muscle-we-go-hands-on-with-plumes-new-wi-fi-6-superpod-redesign/ and how it performs relative to other mesh systems: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/12/review-comparing-google-wifi-to-other-mesh-networking-heavyweights/

      It does work, as it uses some NFV stuff to monitor and tune the network dynamically. But the way they’ve designed the brains work in the cloud rather than on device. I’d prefer to pay another $30 for one device that had the compute locally on my LAN and be done with any sub. But unfortunately Cisco went the way of the subscription and bricked network device without it, so everyone thinks it’s a good idea (not realising everyone is screaming to get away from Cisco as a result).

  6. Andrew Fuller says:

    Just change the plume HomePass website to ‘ Great Britain’ and you pay in £.

    Article needs correcting.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      You are correct. But I’m a little surprised they put the selection box for that in small print and right at the bottom of their page, where it was easily overlooked.

  7. Mohammed says:

    Keen to know how this works with other ISPs? I.e if the other ISP router does not support mesh….

    1. zzing says:

      Plume is both hardware and a subscription. You can conjoin this subscription via some ISPs (ie Virgin Media as above). If you then move to another ISP, then you’d need to get to a HomePass subscription ($99/year) from Plume.com directly and then it’d work again. One of the pods would need to be connected to your ISP router via a cable.

  8. Jon says:

    Just buy a Netgear orbi mesh system that’s WiFi 6 like the Rbk353

  9. Jon says:

    Just buy a Netgear orbi mesh system that’s WiFi 6 like the Rbk353 no subscription either

  10. SymetricalAccess says:

    Looks like a piece of expensive spyware.

    Buy decent kit and there’s no need for a subscription and being spied on.

  11. 2badmice says:

    Looks similar to the device I got asked to trial for them. Seemed OK but didn’t work with your own router and having just put my hub3 into modem mode I was left a little unimpressed with it.

    I’ve since installed ethernet into all upstairs bedrooms along with an access point in the landing ceiling and see no benefits this system can offer me.

    I suppose it’s a good and simple setup for those who don’t want to hard wire an access point (or have an installer do it for them).

    Always remember mobile devices should use WiFi and static devices should be run by ethernet.

    Have a good day all.

  12. Scott Wright says:

    Forget that. Just run the virgin hub in router mode and buy a decent wifi6 router. One off cost with no annual fees

  13. Heather says:

    Hi Mark,

    I really enjoyed your article on Plume’s new HomePass and noticed at the end you mentioned wanting to learn more about how WiFi based motion sensing systems work and I would love to connect further with you on this. I work with Cognitive Systems Corp, who are the leaders in WiFi Sensing technology, and they would be happy to answer any and all your questions to help give you a better understanding of how it works and share some of the future capabilities.

    If you are interested, please reach out to the email I have provided. Looking forward to connecting with you!

    Best,
    Heather

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