Comcast is launching a new cellular-equipped backup internet device that’s designed to keep customers connected during storms and localized outages. The Xfinity Storm-Ready WiFi is a Wi-Fi 6-capable device powered by the Xfinity 10G network that doubles as a Wi-Fi extender to help boost connectivity to hard-to-reach areas around the home. In the event of a power outage, Storm-Ready WiFi will automatically transition to using its cellular backup and rechargeable four-hour battery to keep customers online.
Xfinity Storm-Ready WiFi is available starting today for $252 (according to Matt Ecker, Comcast’s VP of internet services) or $7 a month for 36 months. That gives consumers some flexibility, but $7 a month is pretty expensive for something you may only need a few times a year. Cellular data is, however, thankfully included in that price and provides customers with unlimited data when it transitions over to cellular mode. The device only supports Xfinity internet service, but it can be paired with existing Xfinity gateways to create a wall-to-wall mesh network to extend coverage to get more out of your purchase.
In its press release, Comcast claims “there has never been a greater need for a back-up connectivity solution” due to the increasing intensity of storms and hurricanes across the US over the last four decades. The association with climate disasters has been incorporated into the device itself, with the Storm-Ready WiFi being Comcast’s first device designed using recycled materials — the casing is made from 65 percent postconsumer recycled plastic.
Comcast also claims to be the first internet service provider to offer backup connectivity during stormy weather. As a concept, though, it isn’t entirely unique — Eero also offers cellular backup for your home security network via the Ring Alarm Pro with built-in Eero support, and many wireless routers offer some kind of failover to a cellular connection like a phone or connected hotspot if their main internet connection goes out, which can contain their own dedicated battery.
The four-hour limitation on the battery life is also fairly restrictive considering how long power outages can last during particularly bad storms. Four hours may suffice if you tend to experience short blackouts when storms hit, but fallen trees on power lines can knock out power for days or, in some instances, months. It’s better than nothing, but if your electricity is unreliable when storms hit, other options include a UPS backup combined with a cellular hotspot or other connected devices (like a laptop or tablet with a modem built in and a long-lasting battery) rather than relying entirely on the rechargeable battery to keep you online.