You might buy a new phone every year or two and a new laptop every few years. But odds are you don’t buy new WiFi routers all that often. So it’s no surprise that the companies that make home networking gear are looking for new ways to squeeze some ongoing revenue out of you.

But with that in mind, Plume‘s decision to launch a $60 per year subscription service along with its new mesh WiFi routers actually makes a lot of sense. Along with features that wouldn’t otherwise be available, Plume offers a lifetime warranty which means that once you make an initial investment you’ll never have to pay for hardware again. Plus Plume has a pretty good incentive to keep rolling out software and feature updated indefinitely.

The new Plume SuperPod goes up for pre-order June 15th for $39 and up and ships June 21st. You’ll need to sign up for a subscription in order to buy one though.

The SuperPod is basically an updated version of Plume’s original pods, featuring tri-band, 8-channel WiFi (up from dual-band, 4-channel). There are also two Ethernet jacks instead of one.

So first let’s talk about what you get for $39: a new Plume SuperPod router plus three of the company’s first-gen pods that you can place around the house to flesh out your WiFi network.

That’s a crazy-good price for a single tri-band WiFi router, let alone for a 4-pack of networking gear. But you will need to pay at least $60 on top of that for a subscription, and Plume is hoping you find enough value in that subscription to keep paying year after year.

Cancel your membership and you can still use the routers’ basic functionality. But paying subscribers get access to parental controls, a cloud-based management system, and other enhancements.

And, as mentioned, if one of your pods dies in a few years Plume will send you whatever the latest model is as a replacement… as long as you have an active subscription.

If you want a more powerful pack of hardware you can also opt for a $249 kit that includes 4 SuperPods. Plume will also sell subscribers additional pods for $39 each or SuperPods for $99 each if you need more than the number included in a starter pack.

Oh, and if you don’t like the idea of being on the hook for $60 per year indefinitely, Plume is offering a lifetime membership option for $200. If you’re confident the company will be around for more than 3 years (and that you’ll be happy with the products), that seems like the way to go if you can afford to pay that much up front.

Existing Plume users who area already using first-gen hardware also get access to Plume’s new membership program for free.

via Ars Technica and The Verge

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13 replies on “Plume’s new mesh WiFi routers come with an annual subscription fee”

  1. Fine with the business model but it’s not a warranty if it’s dependant on an optional subscription service. It’s hardware rental at that point with a deposit.

  2. LIfetime warranty does not equal you never have to pay for new equipment. You just won’t have to pay for the same equipment. New wifi radios, bands, or features that exceed the built-in flash and you’re back to buying new gear every few years.

  3. Being able to have outright ownership of devices is already becoming difficult with more and more becoming not just IoT capable but IoT mandatory. Services routinely come and go, companies bought, servers shuttered. And they honestly expect us to pay for the privilege now too? This is a no-brainer hard pass.

  4. Another DOA product. Not a chance in hell this will succeed. Everyone I know is already bleeding from monthly fees in every other aspect of their lives. Paying a monthly fee for a router? Ridiculous at any price.

  5. I’ve found routers to be particularly short-lived electronics, so mine never seem to get old. And it’s been a long time since I’ve had a router I’ve been truly happy with, and two have even turned me off their companies entirely (Buffalo and Asus).

    So I like this idea, but I think I’ll wait a few months to jump on board.

  6. Sorry, but I hope this idea dies. It would only encourage more companies to try this model. Too many companies are already trying to get consumers on the subscription model. It is a death of a 1,000 cuts. In three years there will be some new hardware standard that requires a new router anyway. Feel free to disagree.

    1. My concern is the huge number of people probably continuing to use 10-year-old WiFi routers that have never received a security update. A subscription service with OTA updates could be a good thing… but I’m not sure Plume’s pricing model makes the most sense.

      Count me in for a $12/year plan that works with normally-priced hardware.

      But in this case, they’re practically giving away the entry-level hardware, which makes me wonder if they’ll still be around to honor those $200 lifetime membership customers in a few years.

      1. I understand the concern about updates, but that should be part of the cost of manufacturing any device connected to the Internet. It should be supported for a minimum of 3 years but more reasonably 5 years. Hardware manufacturers for the most part should be graded a F- on how they support hardware. Updates should be “forehead install” easy. There is no reason why the router could not notify the user there is an update available.

        1. Agreed, agreed, and agreed… but that’s not the way it is. Are subscription-based routers the best solution? Probably not. But they’re one I can see working… at least if customers are sold on the idea of paying for special features they’ll probably never use and long-term support they’ll probably never notice unless something goes wrong.

      2. Realistically, folks who use a 10+ year-old router won’t switch over to a subscription-based service like this one, it doesn’t talk to them. I’m thinking about people like my mother for instance, as long as her beaten-up G router still works, she doesn’t think of its age as a problem.

        The business plan is rationally sound, but in practice it won’t take off the ground if that’s all there is to it.

    2. Agreed. The next thing you know, we’ll be paying subscription for beds and tea tables.

    3. Agreed. This idea needs to DIAF before it has a chance to really grab onto people. The entire residential managed services model that many broadband companies have developed to nickel and dime a few more bucks out of its customers (all for literally no additional benefit, it just allows them to restrict, monitor, and sell your data more) serves no point but to exploit the customer same as this. If you are worried about Grandma & Grandpa’s router being part of a botnet it doesn’t mean you should pay someone else to watch it for you. With the same cost you’d pay the broadband provider or overpay for some Asus/Netgear pos you could just buy a nice Ubiquiti setup, then manage the whole thing from your cell phone remotely. Peace of mind, not promoting a terrible business model, and regular security updates.

  7. This is not a bad business model, sort of consumer version of Cisco Meraki. Remains to be seen if people see value in it though.

Comments are closed.