One would imagine this is the time internet service providers, or ISPs, would really do everything possible to lure new subscribers with affordable home broadband plans and offer genuine value adds to existing subscribers to retain them. The Coronavirus pandemic, or COVID, sees many working from home, relying ever so much more on their home broadband connections to get work done. Video meetings, file sharing, online classrooms for children, virtual gyms and more. When we reported a few days ago that Airtel had teased a new Xstream Fiber Plus Mesh Plan was incoming for broadband users, it genuinely got us excited. Will a much larger demographic of broadband users be able to get better internet experience by moving away from basic routers? The Xstream Fiber Plus Mesh Plan has now gone live on the Airtel Thanks app for Android and the Apple iPhone for Airtel Xstream broadband users, and well, let us just say it isn’t as affordable as we expected.
The price of the Xstream Fiber Plus Mesh Plan is Rs 25,000 per year. Yes, you read that right. It is Rs 25,000 per year. Airtel says they will provide a Linksys Velop Wi-Fi Mesh System with this plan, which will be the three unit configuration—here, one will act as a base unit connected to the Xstream broadband modem and two satellite units that can be placed around your home for uninterrupted and seamless Wi-Fi coverage. Airtel claims this is worth Rs 50,000 which though not entirely incorrect, is only partially true at a time when market prices are very different from the sticker price on most products. “Airtel Equipment comes in a unit package of three (3) devices, which will only be offered ensemble,” say the terms and conditions for this plan. We believe this is the Linksys Velop Tri-band, which we have reviewed earlier, and that promises a coverage of around 6,000 square feet with the three-node setup. Yet, Airtel’s own description says that the Linksys Velop mesh that they will provide is good enough for around 3,500 square feet. Now that is a bit perplexing, and the Airtel communication around this plan doesn’t clarify that.
If you do sign up for the Airtel Xstream Fiber Plus Mesh Plan right and pay Rs 25,000 for it, you should more than hold your peace for a year. At least. Because the terms and conditions of this plan state that if you decide to terminate the subscription prior to the completion of two years or decide to downgrade the Xstream broadband rental plan within one year of purchase of this plan and the activation for the same, you will have to return the Linksys Velop Wi-Fi mesh system to Airtel. However, after the first year is complete, you do have the freedom to continue to pay the annual charge of Rs 25,000 or switch to the monthly billing cycle for the same plan or a higher priced plan.
Speaking of the specifics of the Airtel Xstream Fiber Plus Mesh Plan, this is basically an evolution of the Airtel Xstream Premium broadband plan, which is otherwise priced at Rs 1,499 per month and offers 500GB data at 300Mbps speeds. You can add the unlimited data top-up at Rs 299 per month as well. When the same plan becomes the Xstream Fiber Plus Mesh Plan, it now costs Rs 2,083 per month with the Linksys Velop Wi-Fi Mesh System—and offers 500GB data per month at 300Mbps speeds. If you want unlimited data, you add the Rs 299 top-up to your Xstream Fiber Plus Mesh Plan.
At this time, the Linksys Velop Wi-Fi Mesh system prices start around Rs 16,000 for the dual band mesh system with two nodes, and around Rs 28,000 for the tri-band mesh system with two nodes. The three-node setup that Airtel is promising to bundle with the Xstream Fiber Plus Mesh Plan costs around Rs 39,999. For most home users, the Linksys Velop mesh system, the dual-band variant with two nodes, will be more than enough since it covers around 3,000 sq. ft. indoor space and offers a very neat Linksys smartphone companion app for setup and management.
All said and done, this is a start which must be appreciated. This could spur some more creativity in the home broadband space with bundles for subscribers. However, pricing sensitivity is perhaps of utmost importance at this time, because not many broadband users in the age of financial uncertainty, may be able to shell out Rs 25,000 up front for a broadband subscription.
Plus, call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the monthly billing cycle. Keeps things simple.
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