Enlarge /. A trio of such Wi-Fi 6 Eero Pro devices should offer great Wi-Fi coverage and performance for just about any home.
This Tuesday, Eero – one of the earliest and most popular Wi-Fi mesh providers – announced a new hardware and software program aimed at ISPs rather than retail customers. Ars spoke extensively with Nick Weaver, Founder and CEO of Eero, and Mark Sieglock, GM of Software Services at Eero, about the new program.
The short version of Eero for Service Providers is simple: Provide new Eero 6 series hardware, let your customers install it themselves using a co-branding app with the ISP's own name, and make Eero Insight available to the ISP, a dashboard that allows you to view metrics from the entire fleet level down to individual households. The telemetry provided to the ISP includes outages, speed test data, client network topology, RF diagnostics, and more.
ISPs using Eero Insight can use Eero telemetry to search for network outages with configurable alert levels.
Failures can also be checked with an instant, geo-positioned overview at the fleet level. From here, operators can drill down to see details of individual client networks that are experiencing failures.
In addition to complete outages, Eero provides the ISP with speed data measured by the Eero client device itself during short, automated nightly speed tests.
At this level, we drilled down to a (fictitious – all data in these graphs are bogus households) to see the change in nightly speed tests over the past two weeks.
Weaver told us that the Vanilla Eero Insight dashboard itself wasn't the whole story. The metrics, charts, and graphs made available by the dashboard can also be accessed through the API, allowing larger vendors to seamlessly integrate the data into their own existing dashboards.
In addition to the Eero hardware itself, which is typically one of the best consumer Wi-Fi networks available, Weaver emphasized that ISPs that provide Eero also offer Eero Secure for consumers, a filtering service that mitigates some malware risks and offers client-configurable parental controls for homes equipped with Eero. While the Eero Insight program is new, it isn't Eero partnerships with ISPs, and the company states that partner ISPs providing Eero Secure have increased customer retention by up to 40 percent.
Eero versus Plume
Here's an obvious comparison to Wi-Fi mesh competitor Plume, which also has a history of market-leading performance and deep ISP integration. According to Weaver, the two companies approached the market from opposite directions – Eero was originally aimed directly at consumers and only came to ISPs after its retail success, while Plume largely viewed retail sales as a stepping stone to the ISP market.
There are significant differences in the integration efforts of the two companies, which may stem directly from the differences in their original market plans. Although Eero Plume appears to be catching up on the data that is being made available to its ISP partners, it is still lagging behind with hardware integration. While both companies offer data via API, Plume has created easy-to-integrate OpenSync firmware stubs that partner ISPs can use to effectively turn their existing modems and routers into "Plume devices" themselves.
This means that a Plume ISP deployment can consist of an ISP gateway device plus two Superpods for a total of three working Wi-Fi access points. A similar Eero setup only comes in two parts as the gateway device's radio is generally disabled.
Eeros Weaver advises that as long as the ISP's gateway device uses the same SSID and password as the Eero nodes, things will "only work well enough" for most purposes. This is correct, but it avoids the increasing difficulty of configuration and destroys the single pane-of-glass model otherwise provided by Eero Insight. Client devices connected to a Wi-Fi enabled gateway are virtually invisible through Insight to the Eero nodes providing telemetry.
More importantly, Weaver argues that newer deployment technologies – mostly FTTH (Fiber To The Home) – don't use built-in gateway / modem / router devices anyway. Weaver says that when Eero's ISP partners are moving to fiber, they are already switching to split functionality with separate fiber transceivers and Wi-Fi routers. In such cases nothing is disabled and nothing is lost if Eero is deployed on the side. The Eero devices are the only router and only access points in the network anyway.
The newer devices of the Eero 6 series (Wi-Fi 6) can be seamlessly combined with all older Eero hardware versions up to and including the first generation Eero. The Eero for Service Providers program will be available to ISPs in the US and Canada starting November this year. Future feature releases will be released in the following months.