Comcast invests in mesh router maker Plume, launches Xfinity xFi for managing your home’s wireless network

Comcast this morning has launched a new service called Xfinity xFi that will allow customers to better manage and control their home Wi-Fi network through an online dashboard, voice control via the TV, as well as through apps for iOS and Android devices. The system is designed to make it easier to perform common tasks, like finding the Wi-Fi password or monitoring activity across the network, in addition to accessing other controls, like setting device “bedtime” schedules, or configuring text message alerts for when new devices join the network, and more.

Typically, configuring your home network, monitoring connected devices and controlling internet access has involved the need to make changes on the router directly, or utilize a third-party internet monitoring software application, or one of the newer hardware devices, like the Luma router, Circle with Disney, and others.

Comcast’s xFi service instead offers a similar set of capabilities from a single interface which is provided to existing internet customers at no additional charge.

The service can be controlled through a mobile app, website or through the TV using the X1 voice remote. It requires that Xfinity customers have a supported device to work – either the xFi Wireless Gateway or the xFi Advance Wireless Gateway.

The xFi Wireless Gateway is the rebranded name of the wireless gateway in 10 million Comcast customers’ homes today. Meanwhile, the Advanced Gateway is a new device available to those on the faster broadband tiers, and will be used to provide one-gig speeds, gigabit speeds over Wi-Fi, Xfinity Voice, and home security and automation applications.

In terms of network management, the xFi will allow you to set up your network, view and change your Wi-Fi name and password, see all the connected devices and give them nicknames for easy reference, troubleshoot Wi-Fi issues, receive alerts over SMS when new devices join, and even pause the internet with a tap.

xFi also includes built-in parental controls to protect kids from inappropriate web content. Customers can set up profiles for each family member, monitor who’s most active on the network and when, and set device “bedtimes,” which will disable internet access by device at a certain time of day.

The service offers protection from phishing and malware, which is combined with the firewalls available on the xFi Gateways for increased security.

Because the service is cloud-based, customers are able to manage and monitor their home internet from anywhere.

In addition, Comcast says it has invested in Plume, which makes a “router-killer” that intelligently balances home bandwidth between devices and offers plug-in pods that extend Wi-Fi throughout the home. Comcast is integrating Plume and xFi into a unified experience and will this year release its own xFi pods that can pair with Comcast’s gateways to help Wi-Fi signals reach throughout the home.

Comcast forecasts that with the rollout of the new Advanced Gateway and the addition of new customers, there will be 15 million xFi-ready homes by year-end.

The move comes at a time when Comcast is looking for new ways to attract customers to its high-speed internet service, whose growth is being fueled by the cord cutting trend – including the so-called “cord nevers,” who don’t ever sign up for cable TV in the first place. The company announced in April it had 22.5 million TV subscribers, and 25.1 million broadband subscribers, making it now the biggest broadband provider in the U.S.

The announcement also follows today’s news of Comcast’s deal with Charter Communications, which will see the two largest U.S. cable companies work together on future wireless deals. Both businesses are in need of new streams of revenue, as the pace of cord cutting continues is impacting the growth of their cable TV businesses. Both already have deals that allow them to resell wireless service from Verizon’s network, and plan to team up to negotiate similar deals with other operators in the future.