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jsox

Plume Wi-Fi "Routers just became retro"

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jsox

I did some reading about Plume after hearing it mentioned in the recent podcast. Intriguing concept.

https://www.plumewifi.com/how-it-works 

 

I submitted some questions to their support email. If I get answers, I'll share them here.

 

Question #1
Looked for something describing how the things I configure today on my router (e.g. assigned addresses in DHCP, DMZ setup, port forwarding) would be handled in a Plume system and could not find anything. To offer NAT protection there must be a router somewhere. Is that addressed in a whitepaper or someplace that I did not see?

 

Question #2
If I think I need less than 6 devices can I use the "surplus" in a different location as a totally separate system? For example, split a box of 6 as 3 in my apartment and 3 in my girlfriend's apartment? Or 4 in my house and 2 in my parents apartment. As an general extension of this question, are all Plume plug-ins capable of operating with any other Plume plug-in or independently? If I buy more than one 6-pack am I free to break up the total any way I want? 10 in one location, 2 in another? 4 each in three locations? One each in 12 locations?

 

Question #3
Is there a practical maximum to the number of plug-ins that can be used productively? At my church, which also has a school, I might need 20 or more to cover all the offices and classrooms. Is that something that you would expect to work?

 

Question #4
I think I read that any plug-in has one Ethernet port. That Ethernet port can either be used as a LAN port to hardware a device into the Plume network. Or it can be used as a hardwired backhaul for that plug-in. Is that correct? In the church / school scenario in #3 we have Ethernet in some locations already. Would each of those plug-ins provide a boosted backhaul capability, increasing the overall wi-fi performance? Would they all work together to form one seamless wi-fi system across the entire campus?

 

Question #5
I read it will have one primary SSID and one Guest SSID. Is there any chance of more than two SSIDs? Is the interaction of the Guest with the primary network configurable (e.g. expose specific network printers at specific IP addresses but not servers or storage)? Or is the Guest always and only Internet access? Can the Guest network be throttled? Can the throttling be time-based or location (plug-in) based?

 

Question #6
You talk about the cloud based brains of the system. What happens when your servers are down? Or the Internet is down?

 

Question #7
Is it possible to configure two (or more) overlapping Plume wi-fi systems? Lets say I want one for CHURCH and one SCHOOL with separate primary passwords, but coverage for both needs to be present in a number of common areas, the cafeteria, whatever. Will two Plume networks play nice with each other?

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jsox

Thanks for reaching out. Great questions. Please see answer below.

 

#1. (router configuration options)
We support the following at launch:
- Router or Bridge mode with the Router mode supporting fixed IP or DHCP assignment on the WAN side
- NAT/FW when operating in Router mode
- Port forwarding
- Manual DNS configuration
We have plans to offer fixed DHCP MAC-IP assignments in a future software update, but a release date is not available currently. We are looking to the need for DMZ, as we do not hear that request much.

 

#2. (use less than 6, split 6 across multiple locations)
Sure. The Pods are like a family and are meant to be setup together, but you are free to disassociate any number of Pods from your account and set them up in a separate location. Each Pod is exactly he same, so there is not a difference in functionality to worry about. All your configurations are supported. We just remind you to place one in each room to have the fastest WiFi available.

 

#3.(maximum number of nodes)
From a SW and optimization perspective, there is not a limit to the number of Pods in the network. Practically speaking, there is a limit as to the gains you would see by adding more Pods. In a home, we optimize around one Pod per room and connecting spaces as a way to achieve the highest gain. Adding more Pods may increment the speed in the home, but the returns may be diminishing or none. For example, if you put 4 Pods in your bedroom, it's not a wise use of Pods to get more speed to your bedroom. We do have many large homes that gain from 12 Pods, for example, but most 2-3 bedroom homes are perfectly happy with 6 Pods.

For your church example, which uses 20 Pods, the system will work and optimize fine. For a space and building that large, it's always recommended to have Ethernet backhaul in a few locations to make sure you have adequate bandwidth available in the different areas of the church. That leads into your Question #4.

 

#4.(wired Ethernet backhaul)
You're correct that the LAN port on the Pod can be used for Ethernet backhaul, which would work well in your church network. Our algorithm knows the locations with fast Ethernet backhaul and optimizes connections to take advantage of the faster Ethernet backhaul. The WiFi network will have one SSID for the campus, supporting roaming between the Pods.

 

#5.(primary and guest SSIDs)
Correct, there is one SSID for Guest and one SSID for Home. Initially the Guest SSID will be connected to the Internet without local device access to create a security boundary. In a follow-up software update, we are adding permission based access for Guests to access other local devices on the network. Throttling is not supported, but Guest traffic is de-prioritized against the Home SSID traffic to make sure it does not impact Home traffic speeds. Technically more SSIDs may be added, but at this time we do not have a planned software update for this feature.

 

#6.(what happens when there is no Internet)
If the Cloud connection is down for any reason, the Pods will retain their last known configuration to continue operation. New clients will connect fine. Any re-optimization of the network, if required, will occur after the cloud connection is restored.

 

#7.(overlapping Plume networks)
Currently we do not plan to support such a configuration, but it's an interesting use case, and one that we discuss/debate internally. The WiFi optimization will coordinate channel use and allocation between two separate networks, but the common WiFi access area between two separate networks is not yet planned for support.

Thanks for all your questions. You covered most of the topics we discuss and debate in our office each day. Feel free to follow-up directly with me in email.

Kind regards,

Adam Hotchkiss
Team Plume

 

I got a quick and polite response. As I do not actually use a DMZ myself (nor do we use one at church/school) lacking that feature is not a big deal to me either. I'm not sure the overlapping networks question was understood, perhaps I worded it poorly. Surely they have considered the case of apartment or townhouse or condo neighbors both having Plume networks. There would be unavoidable overlap in that circumstance.

 

I'm tempted to go in for one box of 6 at the intro price but I don't like that they charge your credit card up front rather than when they actually ship product.

 

If Dave or Jim Collison could get Plume on their show it would be an interesting discussion. 

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jsox

In a follow-up communication it was clarified that two (or more) Plume networks that overlap intentionally or unintentionally will indeed still do their best to not interfere with each other.

 

Also, on further reading you will get your contribution refunded if they fail to get FCC authorization for the product.

 

Q. I also asked about managing more than one network from a single account (mine, my parents, my girlfriends, my office, whatever).

A. The system initially only works with one account to one network, later that will be changed. The actual answer was:

 

"Initially support for separate networks is based on one username/password per network, but we are planning after launch to immediately start working on multiple account access from one login. You will be able to switch between locations to support the use cases of multiple homes, parents, office, etc..."

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whsbuss

Sounds interesting. These are in fact interesting times for networking.

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jsox

Just put in my preorder for a set of 6 for $234.00.

Hard to say when they will ship.

After I get them and have some experience I will put up some kind of review here.

If they get here before the 2016 Meet Up I'll try to remember to bring one along to show.

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jsox

I've had my Plume network up and running for about 8 months now. I used all six pods in my house, one in the basement, 3 on the first floor, and 2 on the second floor. The one in the basement is attached to my router via wired Internet. I could probably get by with as few as 3 pods (one on each floor) but I don't have a need to use any of them anywhere else right now so what the heck.

 

Setup was very simple. It auto-detected that it needed to be in Bridge mode rather than router mode. I set up the wireless network name and password. I plugged in the additional plugs one at a time throughout the house, naming them with the phone app. The network worked immediately and they optimized their mesh-network automatically over the next couple of days I guess. The WiFi back-haul is handled on separate channels than the WiFi signal to devices, all of which auto-configures. The iOS and Android software have been updated several times. The system will now (at your option) do bandwidth checks (out to the Internet) and record the results if you want. I can also see which devices are downloading what amount of data on WiFi. Not live data, but the total, or percent of the total for an individual device, over the last 30 days, 7 days, or last 24 hours.

 

I never had a Guest network so I can't complain that they have not yet implement this feature, but if / when they do I will set one up to see how it works. No parental controls feature either, but that's another thing I didn't have before so I don;t miss it. I paid $234 for 6 pods in the pre-order, that package now goes for $329, 3 pods for $179, and 1 pod for $69. 

 

For my use case I have been completely satisfied. Since I implemented this I have had zero complaints about WiFi in this room or that room or anywhere in the house on any device (multiple phones, tablets, laptops, a TV and a Roku). Great wife acceptance factor. I would not hesitate to recommend the product to someone else who wanted good WiFi coverage at home, as long as they did not need a Guest network or parental controls.

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Dave

That's a great follow up, thank you.  I never got a chance to test these guys so I'm glad you stepped up and tested for us!  $69 for an add on pod is nice.  These guys that charge $150 just to add a device are nuts!

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jsox

Update: 12/2017

Plume has enhanced their product yet again. The new capabilities include the ability to have multiple "guest" passwords on the same SSID that provide different access. They call it "homepass" https://plumewifi.com/#homepass and it is very customizable. The most basic service it offers is a password (again, on the same SSID) that only allows access to the Internet, no local services at all. Or a password that allows access to specific network resources (a printer or a WiFi speaker or a combination or whatever) that can differ for each guest. Passwords can be set to automatically expire (e.g. have one that lasts only one night for a party). You can freeze Internet for a device instantly or on a schedule (e.g. child's phone or laptop). Or create an access profile tailored to a set of IOT devices. I'll admit I did not test everything that it says it does, but everything I did test (e.g. Internet only access) worked exactly as advertised.

 

https://blog.plumewifi.com/how-plumes-homepass-makes-your-home-wi-fi-guest-access-secure-8ad242e77d29

 

My pods were updated automatically. My iPhone app was updated automatically. So I had the new capabilities without doing anything.

 

Buying into this product has turned out to be a very good move for me and my house. We have great WiFi coverage over the entire house, with steadily improving capabilities. Based on my experience I'd still recommend it to anyone. 

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Jason

These are innovative features that certainly differ from the other offerings. Wish Orbi would enable similar capabilities.

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