Amazon has announced that it is acquiring eero, an innovative and well-respected mesh Wi-Fi vendor, with the purpose of helping its customers better connect smart home devices. Wi-Fi mesh technology is a step change in home Wi-Fi connectivity, and there are a number of retail as well as service provider solutions already on the market – albeit sometimes relatively expensive. Although no such announcements have yet been made, if Amazon were to integrate this technology into its other smart home devices such as Amazon Echo, it would indeed be an easy and simple way for consumers to extend their Wi-Fi network. However, the issue with mesh Wi-Fi today is that the majority of solutions are based on proprietary technology, meaning mesh access points from one vendor can't join or extend a mesh network from another. To truly help consumers, all vendors need to move toward open standards such as the Wi-Fi Alliance's EasyMesh.
In a statement on the acquisition, Amazon said that acquiring eero will "help [its] customers better connect smart home devices." Many smart home devices, especially those with media capabilities such as webcams and smart speakers, rely on home Wi-Fi for connectivity. However, larger properties with only a single Wi-Fi access point installed can suffer from Wi-Fi range issues, causing poor customer experience and frustration. Mesh Wi-Fi solutions, such as the one developed by eero, help resolve this issue by effectively creating a "Wi-Fi blanket" over the entire property. Range is not solely a problem for smart home devices, but it is a particular issue as smart home devices (especially security-based ones) can often be positioned around the perimeter of the home (i.e., at the furthest points away from the main router).
Driven by consumer demand for internet access in all rooms of the home, the use of Wi-Fi extenders and mesh access points has started to accelerate. According to Ovum's Digital Consumer Insights data, 18% of homes in the UK and 25% of homes in the US now have Wi-Fi extenders/Wi-Fi mesh access points installed. By acquiring eero, Amazon is filling a gap in its overall smart home strategy, and certainly if eero technology starts to be integrated into other Amazon devices such as the Amazon Echo speaker, Ovum believes it would be seen by Amazon customers as a convenient way of growing their connected and smart home network.
One issue with mesh Wi-Fi systems today is that they are largely based on proprietary technology, meaning that only access points from the same vendor will work together. There are standards on the market that will begin to change this – such as the Wi-Fi Alliance's EasyMesh – but such standards are relatively new and therefore not yet adopted by many vendors. As far as Ovum is aware, eero isn't one of the vendors that has adopted the EasyMesh standards. Although, therefore, eero technology can help solve smart home's Wi-Fi range issue, it does little to solve the one of fragmentation, as consumers would yet again be locked into a certain vendor's ecosystem. If Amazon truly wishes to make its customers' lives easier, once the eero team is fully on board, it should push it to adopt new industry standards such as EasyMesh as soon as possible.
The Role of Wi-Fi in the Premium Home Broadband Market, CES006-000056 (January 2019)
Developing Business Strategies for a Smart Wi-Fi Gateway, CES006-000008 (February 2018)
Role of the Telco: Generating Growth in Future Digital Consumer Services, CES006-000052 (January 2019)
"Comcast simplifies the smart home by putting Xfinity at the core," CES006-000007 (January 2018)
"Broadband service providers must protect their role in home Wi-Fi," CES006-000047 (October 2018)
Michael Philpott, Senior Practice Leader, Consumer Services